Neuroimaging correlates of gait abnormalities in progressive supranuclear palsy

Irene Sintini, Kenton Kaufman, Hugo Botha, Peter R. Martin, Stacy R. Loushin, Matthew L. Senjem, Robert I. Reid, Christopher G. Schwarz, Clifford R. Jack, Val J. Lowe, Keith A. Josephs, Jennifer L. Whitwell, Farwa Ali

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Progressive supranuclear palsy is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized primarily by tau inclusions and neurodegeneration in the midbrain, basal ganglia, thalamus, premotor and frontal cortex. Neurodegenerative change in progressive supranuclear palsy has been assessed using MRI. Degeneration of white matter tracts is evident with diffusion tensor imaging and PET methods have been used to assess brain metabolism or presence of tau protein deposits. Patients with progressive supranuclear palsy present with a variety of clinical syndromes; however early onset of gait impairments and postural instability are common features. In this study we assessed the relationship between multimodal imaging biomarkers (i.e., MRI atrophy, white matter tracts degeneration, flortaucipir-PET uptake) and laboratory-based measures of gait and balance abnormalities in a cohort of nineteen patients with progressive supranuclear palsy, using univariate and multivariate statistical analyses. The PSP rating scale and its gait midline sub-score were strongly correlated to gait abnormalities but not to postural imbalance. Principal component analysis on gait variables identified velocity, stride length, gait stability ratio, length of gait phases and dynamic stability as the main contributors to the first component, which was associated with diffusion tensor imaging measures in the posterior thalamic radiation, external capsule, superior cerebellar peduncle, superior fronto-occipital fasciculus, body and splenium of the corpus callosum and sagittal stratum, with MRI volumes in frontal and precentral regions and with flortaucipir-PET uptake in the precentral gyrus. The main contributor to the second principal component was cadence, which was higher in patients presenting more abnormalities on mean diffusivity: this unexpected finding might be related to compensatory gait strategies adopted in progressive supranuclear palsy. Postural imbalance was the main contributor to the third principal component, which was related to flortaucipir-PET uptake in the left paracentral lobule and supplementary motor area and white matter disruption in the superior cerebellar peduncle, putamen, pontine crossing tract and corticospinal tract. A partial least square model identified flortaucipir-PET uptake in midbrain, basal ganglia and thalamus as the main correlate of speed and dynamic component of gait in progressive supranuclear palsy. Although causality cannot be established in this analysis, our study sheds light on neurodegeneration of brain regions and white matter tracts that underlies gait and balance impairment in progressive supranuclear palsy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102850
JournalNeuroImage: Clinical
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • Balance
  • Diffusion tensor imaging
  • Gait
  • MRI
  • PET
  • Progressive supranuclear palsy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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