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  • Widespread grey matter pathology dominates the longitudinal cerebral MRI and clinical landscape of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

    3 November 2018

    Diagnosis, stratification and monitoring of disease progression in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis currently rely on clinical history and examination. The phenotypic heterogeneity of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, including extramotor cognitive impairments is now well recognized. Candidate biomarkers have shown variable sensitivity and specificity, and studies have been mainly undertaken only cross-sectionally. Sixty patients with sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (without a family history of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or dementia) underwent baseline multimodal magnetic resonance imaging at 3 T. Grey matter pathology was identified through analysis of T1-weighted images using voxel-based morphometry. White matter pathology was assessed using tract-based spatial statistics analysis of indices derived from diffusion tensor imaging. Cross-sectional analyses included group comparison with a group of healthy controls (n = 36) and correlations with clinical features, including regional disability, clinical upper motor neuron signs and cognitive impairment. Patients were offered 6-monthly follow-up MRI, and the last available scan was used for a separate longitudinal analysis (n = 27). In cross-sectional study, the core signature of white matter pathology was confirmed within the corticospinal tract and callosal body, and linked strongly to clinical upper motor neuron burden, but also to limb disability subscore and progression rate. Localized grey matter abnormalities were detected in a topographically appropriate region of the left motor cortex in relation to bulbar disability, and in Broca's area and its homologue in relation to verbal fluency. Longitudinal analysis revealed progressive and widespread changes in the grey matter, notably including the basal ganglia. In contrast there was limited white matter pathology progression, in keeping with a previously unrecognized limited change in individual clinical upper motor neuron scores, despite advancing disability. Although a consistent core white matter pathology was found cross-sectionally, grey matter pathology was dominant longitudinally, and included progression in clinically silent areas such as the basal ganglia, believed to reflect their wider cortical connectivity. Such changes were significant across a range of apparently sporadic patients rather than being a genotype-specific effect. It is also suggested that the upper motor neuron lesion in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis may be relatively constant during the established symptomatic period. These findings have implications for the development of effective diagnostic versus therapeutic monitoring magnetic resonance imaging biomarkers. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis may be characterized initially by a predominantly white matter tract pathological signature, evolving as a widespread cortical network degeneration.

  • Diagnostic accuracy of diffusion tensor imaging in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: a systematic review and individual patient data meta-analysis.

    3 November 2018

    RATIONALE AND OBJECTIVES: There have been a large number of case-control studies using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The objective of this study was to perform an individual patient data (IPD) meta-analysis for the estimation of the diagnostic accuracy measures of DTI in the diagnosis of ALS using corticospinal tract data. MATERIALS AND METHODS: MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, and Cochrane databases (1966-April 2011) were searched. Studies were included if they used DTI region of interest or tractography techniques to compare mean cerebral corticospinal tract fractional anisotropy values between ALS subjects and healthy controls. Corresponding authors from the identified articles were contacted to collect individual patient data. IPD meta-analysis and meta-regression were performed using Stata. Meta-regression covariate analysis included age, gender, disease duration, and Revised Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Functional Rating Scale scores. RESULTS: Of 30 identified studies, 11 corresponding authors provided IPD and 221 ALS patients and 187 healthy control subjects were available for study. Pooled area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) was 0.75 (95% CI: 0.66-0.83), pooled sensitivity was 0.68 (95% CI: 0.62-0.75), and pooled specificity was 0.73 (95% CI: 0.66-0.80). Meta-regression showed no significant differences in pooled AUC for each of the covariates. There was moderate to high heterogeneity of pooled AUC estimates. Study quality was generally high. Data from 19 of the 30 eligible studies were not ascertained, raising possibility of selection bias. CONCLUSION: Using corticospinal tract individual patient data, the diagnostic accuracy of DTI appears to lack sufficient discrimination in isolation. Additional research efforts and a multimodal approach that also includes ALS mimics will be required to make neuroimaging a critical component in the workup of ALS.

  • Brain functional changes in patients with ulcerative colitis: a functional magnetic resonance imaging study on emotional processing.

    3 November 2018

    BACKGROUND: Ulcerative colitis (UC) is associated with psychological stress and poor emotional functioning. The neural emotional processing involves the complex integration of several cortical and subcortical brain structures. The amygdala plays a fundamental role in the neural processing of emotional stimuli and is a core structure of the brain-gut axis (BGA) that represents the anatomo-functional substrate for the bidirectional influences between emotions and gastrointestinal functions. The aim of this study was to investigate the brain emotional processing in UC patients compared to healthy people. METHODS: Ten UC patients in remission and 10 matched healthy controls underwent a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scan while performing a task involving emotional visual stimuli. A set of negative, positive, and neutral pictures were used to study brain-related emotional responses. RESULTS: A significantly reduced blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) signal in UC patients relative to controls was found in the amygdala, thalamic regions, and cerebellar areas (P < 0.05 corrected for multiple comparisons). The group-related differences were detected in the brain activity in response to positive emotional stimuli. CONCLUSIONS: UC is associated with an emotional dysfunction characterized by decreased sensitivity to emotions with a positive content. The previous intestinal inflammatory activity in UC patients might have contributed to determine the functional changes of the amygdala that we found. On the other hand, the dysfunction of the amygdala may influence the course of the disease.

  • Impaired Functional Connectivity Unmasked by Simple Repetitive Motor Task in Early Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis.

    3 November 2018

    BACKGROUND: Resting brain activity can be modulated by motor tasks to adapt to function. In multiple sclerosis (MS) patients, altered resting-state functional connectivity (RS-FC) has been reported and associated with impaired function and disability; little is known on how RS-FC is modulated by a simple repetitive motor task. OBJECTIVE: To assess changes in RS-FC in early relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) patients associated with repetitive thumb flexions (RTFs). METHODS: A total of 20 right-handed patients with early RRMS and 14 healthy controls underwent a resting functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scan, before and after 25 minutes of alternate 30-s blocks of right RTF and rest. Dual-regression analysis of resting fMRI data followed the independent component analysis. Individual spatial maps of coherence between brain areas for 2 networks of interest, sensorimotor and cerebellar, were compared at the group level and correlated with measures of both clinical impairment and brain damage. RESULTS: Significant RTF-induced differences in RS-FC were observed between groups in the cerebellar network because of increased RS-FC in patients but not in controls. In the sensorimotor network, the RS-FC after RTF increased in both groups, with no significant between-group differences. The sensorimotor and the cerebellar RS-FC were intercorrelated only in patients and only after the RTF. The sensorimotor RS-FC increase in patients correlated with structural MRI alterations. CONCLUSIONS: Our study unmasked RS-FC changes of motor-related networks occurring after a simple repetitive motor task in early RRMS patients only. Evaluation of altered RSN dynamics might prove useful for anticipating neuroplasticity and for MRI-informed neurorehabilitation.

  • Differences in integrity of white matter and changes with training in spelling impaired children: a diffusion tensor imaging study.

    3 November 2018

    While the functional correlates of spelling impairment have been rarely investigated, to our knowledge no study exists regarding the structural characteristics of spelling impairment and potential changes with interventions. Using diffusion tensor imaging at 3.0 T, we here therefore sought to investigate (a) differences between children with poor spelling abilities (training group and waiting group) and controls, and (b) the effects of a morpheme-based spelling intervention in children with poor spelling abilities on DTI parameters. A baseline comparison of white matter indices revealed significant differences between controls and spelling-impaired children, mainly located in the right hemisphere (superior corona radiata (SCR), posterior limb of internal capsule, superior longitudinal fasciculus). After 5 weeks of training, spelling ability improved in the training group, along with increases in fractional anisotropy and decreases of radial diffusivity in the right hemisphere compared to controls. In addition, significantly higher decreases of mean diffusivity in the right SCR for the spelling-impaired training group compared to the waiting group were observed. Our results suggest that spelling impairment is associated with differences in white-matter integrity in the right hemisphere. We also provide first indications that white matter changes occur during successful training, but this needs to be more specifically addressed in future research.

  • Disrupted resting-state functional connectivity in progressive supranuclear palsy.

    3 November 2018

    BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Studies on functional connectivity in progressive supranuclear palsy have been restricted to the thalamus and midbrain tegmentum. The present study aims to evaluate functional connectivity abnormalities of the subcortical structures in these patients. Functional connectivity will be correlated with motor and nonmotor symptoms of the disease. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Nineteen patients with progressive supranuclear palsy (mean age, 70.93 ± 5.19 years) and 12 age-matched healthy subjects (mean age, 69.17 ± 5.20 years) underwent multimodal MR imaging, including fMRI at rest, 3D T1-weighted imaging, and DTI. fMRI data were processed with fMRI of the Brain Software Library tools by using the dorsal midbrain tegmentum, thalamus, caudate nucleus, putamen, and pallidum as seed regions. RESULTS: Patients had lower functional connectivity than healthy subjects in all 5 resting-state networks, mainly involving the basal ganglia, thalamus, anterior cingulate, dorsolateral prefrontal and temporo-occipital cortices, supramarginal gyrus, supplementary motor area, and cerebellum. Compared with healthy subjects, patients also displayed subcortical atrophy and DTI abnormalities. Decreased thalamic functional connectivity correlated with clinical scores, as assessed by the Hoehn and Yahr Scale and by the bulbar and mentation subitems of the Progressive Supranuclear Palsy Rating Scale. Decreased pallidum functional connectivity correlated with lower Mini-Mental State Examination scores; decreased functional connectivity in the dorsal midbrain tegmentum network correlated with lower scores in the Frontal Assessment Battery. CONCLUSIONS: The present study demonstrates a widespread disruption of cortical-subcortical connectivity in progressive supranuclear palsy and provides further insight into the pathophysiologic mechanisms of motor and cognitive impairment in this condition.

  • 25th British Isles Research Workshop

    14 January 2019

    Suicide and self-harm

    Professor Keith Hawton hosted the 25th British Isles Research Workshop on Suicide and Self-harm in November 2018. An annually held event which brings together researchers from the UK, Ireland and other countries.

  • 'Tapping the full potential of Europe's health data'

    17 April 2018

    A focus on the EU and industry-funded EMIF project, co-coordinated by Professor Simon Lovestone, which has created a secure online platform consolidating metadata from a wide variety of sources.

  • 2018 Away Day in Pictures

    10 January 2018

    On 9 January 2018 the Department of Psychiatry came together in the Richard Doll Building, Old Road Campus, to share ideas and latest research.

  • Prof Simon Lovestone cycles to Buckingham Palace to receive knighthood

    6 December 2017

    Professor Lovestone, who is receiving a knighthood on 7 December, in recognition of his research into Alzheimer's disease, will be cycling to the Palace as part of a 300 mile ride for Alzheimer's Research UK.

  • The hospital costs of self-harm

    8 September 2017

    Study reveals the health service costs for hospital care of people who self-harm, emphasising the need for effective clinical services and prevention initiatives.

  • Adam Al-Diwani wins the Margaret Temple Award

    8 November 2017

    Wellcome DPhil Training Fellowship researcher is awarded BMA grant given to assist research into schizophrenia.

  • Science and Art Partnership Showcased at Exciting New Exhibition – January 2019

    20 December 2018

    Associate Professor Liz Tunbridge and artist Eleanor Minney have collaborated to create an exciting display of works in textiles, drawing, clay and handwriting.

  • Trust Me I'm a Doctor: Mental Health Special

    1 November 2017

    On 1 November, BBC Two's flagship medical show focuses on two areas of research at the Department of Psychiatry. Find out more about the research here.

  • Facebook Live Event

    24 January 2019

    A Facebook Live Event organised by Oxford Sparks and the Neuroscience, Ethics and Society team at the Department of Psychiatry, asked the question - ‘Should we use AI to help prevent people from getting the blues?’

  • Oxford Dementia Research Day

    30 May 2017

    NIHR Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre and ARUK Oxford Local Network are jointly hosting the annual Oxford Dementia Research Day.