Tractography of supplementary motor area projections in progressive speech apraxia and aphasia

Adrian Valls Carbo, Robert I. Reid, Nirubol Tosakulwong, Stephen D. Weigand, Joseph R. Duffy, Heather M. Clark, Rene L. Utianski, Hugo Botha, Mary M. Machulda, Edythe A. Strand, Christopher G. Schwarz, Clifford R. Jack, Keith A. Josephs, Jennifer L. Whitwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Progressive apraxia of speech (AOS) is a motor speech disorder affecting the ability to produce phonetically or prosodically normal speech. Progressive AOS can present in isolation or co-occur with agrammatic aphasia and is associated with degeneration of the supplementary motor area. We aimed to assess breakdowns in structural connectivity from the supplementary motor area in patients with any combination of progressive AOS and/or agrammatic aphasia to determine which supplementary motor area tracts are specifically related to these clinical symptoms. Eighty-four patients with progressive AOS or progressive agrammatic aphasia were recruited by the Neurodegenerative Research Group and underwent neurological, speech/language, and neuropsychological testing, as well as 3 T diffusion magnetic resonance imaging. Of the 84 patients, 36 had apraxia of speech in isolation (primary progressive apraxia of speech, PPAOS), 40 had apraxia of speech and agrammatic aphasia (AOS-PAA), and eight had agrammatic aphasia in isolation (progressive agrammatic aphasia, PAA). Tractography was performed to identify 5 distinct tracts connecting to the supplementary motor area. Fractional anisotropy and mean diffusivity were assessed at 10 positions along the length of the tracts to construct tract profiles, and median profiles were calculated for each tract. In a case-control comparison, decreased fractional anisotropy and increased mean diffusivity were observed along the supplementary motor area commissural fibers in all three groups compared to controls. PPAOS also had abnormal diffusion in tracts from the supplementary motor area to the putamen, prefrontal cortex, Broca's area (frontal aslant tract) and motor cortex, with greatest abnormalities observed closest to the supplementary motor area. The AOS-PAA group showed abnormalities in the same set of tracts, but with greater involvement of the supplementary motor area to prefrontal tract compared to PPAOS. PAA showed abnormalities in the left prefrontal and frontal aslant tracts compared to both other groups, with PAA showing greatest abnormalities furthest from the supplementary motor area. Severity of AOS correlated with tract metrics in the supplementary motor area commissural and motor cortex tracts. Severity of aphasia correlated with the frontal aslant and prefrontal tracts. These findings provide insight into how AOS and agrammatism are differentially related to disrupted diffusivity, with progressive AOS associated with abnormalities close to the supplementary motor area, and the frontal aslant and prefrontal tracts being particularly associated with agrammatic aphasia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102999
JournalNeuroImage: Clinical
StatePublished - Jan 2022


  • Agrammatism
  • Apraxia of speech
  • DTI
  • Frontal aslant tract
  • Primary progressive aphasia
  • Supplementary motor area
  • Tractography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


Dive into the research topics of 'Tractography of supplementary motor area projections in progressive speech apraxia and aphasia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this