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Free Content Cortical morphometry in narcolepsy with cataplexy

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Summary

The sleep–wake disorder narcolepsy with cataplexy is associated with the loss of hypocretin‐(orexin‐) producing neurons in the lateral hypothalamus. Several studies have reported abnormal cerebral activation in patients with narcolepsy with cataplexy. It remains unclear, however, whether these functional changes are related to structural alterations, particularly at the cortical level. To quantify structural brain changes associated with narcolepsy with cataplexy, we used high‐resolution T1‐weighted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in 12 patients compared with 12 healthy participants matched for age and gender. Subcortical and regional cortical volumes were measured using a method unbiased by non‐linear registration. Further whole‐brain analyses were conducted, measuring cortical characteristics, such as cortical thickness and gyrification, at thousands of points across each hemisphere using validated algorithms. Statistical analyses accounted for an effect of age and gender. We observed decreased cortical volume in the left paracentral lobule and increased cortical volume in the left caudal part of the middle frontal gyrus in narcoleptic patients compared with controls. Cortical thickness in prefrontal areas was inversely correlated with the severity of narcolepsy. Further, we observed several clusters of cortical thinning in patients with childhood or adolescent onset of narcolepsy compared with patients with adult onset of the disease. Our results suggest that specific anatomical changes may differentiate subgroups of narcolepsy patients with different clinical profiles (such as varying symptom severity or different age at onset). Future studies with larger groups of sleepy patients are required to assess whether distinct patterns of anatomical changes may distinguish narcolepsy from non‐hypocretin‐deficient hypersomnia disorders.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Neurology, University Hospital Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

Publication date: 01 October 2012

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