ALS Patients Have Impaired Connectivity in Certain Brain Regions, Study Suggests

ALS Patients Have Impaired Connectivity in Certain Brain Regions, Study Suggests

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is characterized by specific changes in brain activity and connectivity, which are associated with motor and cognitive symptoms, an international research team has found.

Therefore, measuring the impairment of motor and cognitive networks can be a novel ALS biomarker to evaluate disease progression in clinical trials, the researchers suggest.

These findings were reported in their study, “Patterned functional network disruption in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis,” which was published in the journal Human Brain Mapping.

ALS is recognized for its motor symptoms, but many patients may also experience a range of cognitive and behavioral deficits that could impact executive domains, social cognition, language, and memory.

Studies have suggested that brain areas that control movement are more affected in ALS. Analyses of electrical wave patterns in the brain have revealed persistent changes in nerve cell connectivity, which may be associated with ALS-related brain structural degeneration.

In the new study, researchers from Canada, the U.S., and Europe sought to investigate the characteristics of brain connectivity in ALS patients and their impact on disease-associated manifestations.

The study enrolled 74 ALS patients and 47 age-matched healthy volunteers at the National ALS clinic in Beaumont Hospital, in Dublin. Their brain activity was measured through non-invasive electroencephalography (EEG).

The researchers evaluated spectral power (that measures electrical signal potential) and two conceptually different measures of cell connectivity — that reflect the normal patterns of co-modulation and synchrony — while the participants were in a resting state (brain activity without simulation).

Using this comprehensive analysis approach, the team found that ALS patients had significant widespread changes in brain activity wave patterns as compared with healthy volunteers. Different frequency waves showed impaired responses in different brain areas, representing altered connectivity between particular brain areas.

“The new findings have identified previously unrecognized abnormalities in the brain networking. This advances our understanding of the specific brain networks that become dysfunctional as the disease progresses,” Stefan Dukic, lead author of the study, said in a news release.

One of the connectivity networks found to be most affected was the frontoparietal network, which is important for the successful assembly of new memories. In addition, degeneration of nerve cells in frontal and temporal brain regions was found to be associated with language disruption.

Further analyses using functional and structural measures, including brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, revealed that EEG changes in nerve cell connectivity were correlated with alterations in both cognitive and motor domains, as determined by the ALS functional rating scale (ALSFRS-R).

However, while EEG results could help identify ALS patients, they were unable to discriminate patients according to ALS subtypes.

Collectively, the results showed that “neuroelectric signal analysis can capture and quantify important changes that occur in functional networks in ALS,” the researchers stated.

“Our observed alterations in functional connectivity correlate with structural degeneration, and functional motor and cognitive measures,” they wrote.

Supported by these findings, the team believes that “quantitative EEG, a noninvasive and inexpensive technology,” could be “a robust data-driven tool for measuring network disruption in ALS” in future clinical studies.

“There is an urgent need for new treatments that can slow disease progression, and the development of new biomarkers that can help to identify patient subgroups is a very important unmet need,”said Orla Hardiman, MD, professor of neurology by Trinity College Dublin and co-author of the study.

Alice Melão Editor
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Alice Melão Editor

9 comments

  1. There is an urgent need for new treatments that can slow disease progression. The people living with ALS know this but I am not sure anyone else realizes how short our life span is. As I talk with other patients I find most doctors give no hope, we see millions of dollars raised, with no promise of a cure or a way to slow it down. We are faced with red tape everywhere we try to get assistance. I had great hope when I first got ALS since my ALS Doctor was researching reversals. I read every other month about new promising research. I listen to talks on Ted Talks about how the brain can be retrained. I am involved in research projects. Every day we faced struggles to walk, talk, eat, breathe, dress and bath ourselves, and live with the fear of what the future holds. Every day I have to practice and think outside of the box to do everyday things.
    Stem cell seems promising but only a few people are given the privilege of trying this procedure. I feel it should be simple to figure out in my family -affects only females at 61 as I have C90rF72. I only have been able to talk to one family member now deceased so I know this is how it has been for 3 generations. There is also a pattern of MS in the three generations. If we are born with this defective gene what causes it switch on/off? at 61 only affecting females. Two years into my diagnosis I feel let down. I feel we are no closer than when My Mom And Aunt had it 18 years ago.

    • Michelle Osuski says:

      I thought I was out of the woods after my mom passed 40 some years ago. Then my. 1st cousin died at 50years old . I’m 65 . It’s been40years no hope.

    • PVS Nambiar says:

      I second the opinions expressed by Barbara McLean. Sad state of affairs when it comes to research progress on ALS.

  2. Alex says:

    Yes, the sad true is that if you have ALS now you have almost no chance to survive. Maybe some good cure will appear on the market but it will take another 5-10 years from now with all that testing and with ALS 5-10 years of waiting means death. I am in the same boat diagnosed a year ago (at 37) and reading all these articles just make me think there is very little hope for me if any.

  3. QEEG would make strong diagnostic tool in ALS today (as opposed to leaving people in limbo for years and calling them idiopathic or a conversion disorder); there is strong potential as an early diagnostic tool, since these deficits likely occur earlier in the disease process. What is more, neurofeedback, in combination with a CNS/brain stabilizing cocktail, could make a good treatment. This is also true of schizophrenia and other neurodegenerative conditions. Thanks, insurance industry, for snoozing on these really basic diagnostics and treatment tools (while exposing the population to radiation over and over again to produce non-specific diagnostic reports). Nice job!

  4. Sharon William says:

    My primary physician prescribed riluzole and radicava to reduce symptoms and slow down progression of my ALS condition but I could not tolerate them for long due to severe side effects. I decided to adopt a more natural approach and started on ALS Herbal formula treatment from dr Aigbe herbal home, the ALS natural formula treatment immensely helped my condition, i had a total recovery from ALS with his natural formula treatment. Contact Aigbe for his ALS herbal formula via draigbeherbalhome @ gmail. com you can call him or chat live with him on whatsapp via +2349014575214. I recommend you to dr Aigbe please don’t hesitate to contact him thanks

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