In Huntington's disease (HD), neurodegeneration causes progressive atrophy to the striatum, cortical areas, and white matter tracts - components of corticostriatal circuitry. Such processes may affect the thalamus, a key circuit node. We investigated whether differences in dorsal thalamic morphology were detectable in HD, and whether thalamic atrophy was associated with neurocognitive, neuropsychiatric and motor dysfunction. Magnetic resonance imaging scans and clinical outcome measures were obtained from 34 presymptomatic HD (pre-HD), 29 early symptomatic HD (symp-HD), and 26 healthy control individuals who participated in the IMAGE-HD study. Manual region of interest (ROI) segmentation was conducted to measure dorsal thalamic volume, and thalamic ROI underwent shape analysis using the spherical harmonic point distribution method. The symp-HD group had significant thalamic volumetric reduction and global shape deflation, indicative of atrophy, compared to pre-HD and control groups. Thalamic atrophy significantly predicted neurocognitive and motor dysfunction within the symp-HD group only. Thalamic morphology differentiates symp-HD from pre-HD and healthy individuals. Thalamic changes may be one of the structural bases (endomorphotypes), of the endophenotypic neurocognitive and motor manifestations of disease. Future research should continue to investigate the thalamus as a potential in vivo biomarker of disease progression in HD.
- Huntington's disease
- Magnetic resonance imaging