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Deficits in memory and visuospatial learning correlate with regional hippocampal atrophy in MS

Abstract

The hippocampus has a critical role in episodic memory and visuospatial learning and consolidation. We assessed the patterns of whole and regional hippocampal atrophy in a large group of multiple sclerosis (MS) patients, and their correlations with neuropsychological impairment. From 103 MS patients and 28 healthy controls (HC), brain dual-echo and high-resolution 3D T1-weighted images were acquired using a 3.0-Tesla scanner. All patients underwent a neuropsychological assessment of hippocampal-related cognitive functions, including Paired Associate Word Learning, Short Story, delayed recall of Rey-Osterrieth Complex Figure and Paced Auditory Serial Attention tests. The hippocampi were manually segmented and volumes derived. Regional atrophy distribution was assessed using a radial mapping analysis. Correlations between hippocampal atrophy and clinical, neuropsychological and MRI metrics were also evaluated. Hippocampal volume was reduced in MS patients vs HC (p < 0.001 for both right and hippocampus). In MS patients, radial atrophy affected CA1 subfield and subiculum of posterior hippocampus, bilaterally. The dentate hilus (DG:H) of the right hippocampal head was also affected. Regional hippocampal atrophy correlated with brain T2 and T1 lesion volumes, while no correlation was found with disability. Damage to the CA1 and subiculum was significantly correlated to the performances at hippocampal-targeted neuropsychological tests. These results show that hippocampal subregions have a different vulnerability to MS-related damage, with a relative sparing of the head of the left hippocampus. The assessment of regional hippocampal atrophy may help explain deficits of specific cognitive functions in MS patients, including memory and visuospatial abilities.

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Acknowledgments

This study has been partially supported by a grant from Fondazione Italiana Sclerosi Multipla (FISM 2012/R/8).

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Correspondence to Massimo Filippi.

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Longoni, G., Rocca, M.A., Pagani, E. et al. Deficits in memory and visuospatial learning correlate with regional hippocampal atrophy in MS. Brain Struct Funct 220, 435–444 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00429-013-0665-9

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Keywords

  • Hippocampus
  • Radial mapping
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Cognitive impairment