Longitudinal structural and molecular neuroimaging in agrammatic primary progressive aphasia

Katerina A. Tetzloff, Joseph R. Duffy, Heather M. Clark, Edythe A. Strand, Mary M. MacHulda, Christopher G. Schwarz, Matthew L. Senjem, Robert I. Reid, Anthony J. Spychalla, Nirubol Tosakulwong, Val J. Lowe, Clifford R. Jack, Keith A. Josephs, Jennifer L. Whitwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The agrammatic variant of primary progressive aphasia affects normal grammatical language production, often occurs with apraxia of speech, and is associated with left frontal abnormalities on cross-sectional neuroimaging studies. We aimed to perform a detailed assessment of longitudinal change on structural and molecular neuroimaging to provide a complete picture of neurodegeneration in these patients, and to determine how patterns of progression compare to patients with isolated apraxia of speech (primary progressive apraxia of speech). We assessed longitudinal structural MRI, diffusion tensor imaging and 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose PET in 11 agrammatic aphasia subjects, 20 primary progressive apraxia of speech subjects, and 62 age and gender-matched controls with two serial assessments. Rates of change in grey matter volume and hypometabolism, and white matter fractional anisotropy, mean diffusivity, radial diffusivity and axial diffusivity were assessed at the voxel-level and for numerous regions of interest. The greatest rates of grey matter atrophy in agrammatic aphasia were observed in inferior, middle, and superior frontal gyri, premotor and motor cortices, as well as medial temporal lobe, insula, basal ganglia, and brainstem compared to controls. Longitudinal decline in metabolism was observed in the same regions, with additional findings in medial and lateral parietal lobe. Diffusion tensor imaging changes were prominent bilaterally in inferior and middle frontal white matter and superior longitudinal fasciculus, as well as right inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus, superior frontal and precentral white matter. More focal patterns of degeneration of motor and premotor cortex were observed in primary progressive apraxia of speech. Agrammatic aphasia showed greater rates of grey matter atrophy, decline in metabolism, and white matter degeneration compared to primary progressive apraxia of speech in the left frontal lobe, predominantly inferior and middle frontal grey and white matter. Correlations were also assessed between rates of change on neuroimaging and rates of clinical decline. Progression of aphasia correlated with rates of degeneration in frontal and temporal regions within the language network, while progression of parkinsonism and limb apraxia correlated with degeneration of motor cortex and brainstem. These findings demonstrate that disease progression in agrammatic aphasia is associated with widespread neurodegeneration throughout regions of the language network, as well as connecting white matter tracts, but also with progression to regions outside of the language network that are responsible for the development of motor symptoms. The fact that patterns of progression differed from primary progressive apraxia of speech supports the clinical distinction of these syndromes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)302-317
Number of pages16
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018


  • apraxia of speech
  • diffusion tensor imaging
  • magnetic resonance imaging
  • rates

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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