Journal Article
Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
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Structural MRI profiles and tau correlates of atrophy in autopsy-confirmed CTE.

BACKGROUND: Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a neurodegenerative tauopathy, cannot currently be diagnosed during life. Atrophy patterns on magnetic resonance imaging could be an effective in vivo biomarker of CTE, but have not been characterized. Mechanisms of neurodegeneration in CTE are unknown. Here, we characterized macrostructural magnetic resonance imaging features of brain donors with autopsy-confirmed CTE. The association between hyperphosphorylated tau (p-tau) and atrophy on magnetic resonance imaging was examined.

METHODS: Magnetic resonance imaging scans were obtained by medical record requests for 55 deceased symptomatic men with autopsy-confirmed CTE and 31 men (n = 11 deceased) with normal cognition at the time of the scan, all >60 years Three neuroradiologists visually rated regional atrophy and microvascular disease (0 [none]-4 [severe]), microbleeds, and cavum septum pellucidum presence. Neuropathologists rated tau severity and atrophy at autopsy using semi-quantitative scales.

RESULTS: Compared to unimpaired males, donors with CTE (45/55=stage III/IV) had greater atrophy of the orbital-frontal (mean diff.=1.29), dorsolateral frontal (mean diff.=1.31), superior frontal (mean diff.=1.05), anterior temporal (mean diff.=1.57), and medial temporal lobes (mean diff.=1.60), and larger lateral (mean diff.=1.72) and third (mean diff.=0.80) ventricles, controlling for age at scan (ps<0.05). There were no effects for posterior atrophy or microvascular disease. Donors with CTE had increased odds of a cavum septum pellucidum (OR = 6.7, p < 0.05). Among donors with CTE, greater tau severity across 14 regions corresponded to greater atrophy on magnetic resonance imaging (beta = 0.68, p < 0.01).

CONCLUSIONS: These findings support frontal-temporal atrophy as a magnetic resonance imaging finding of CTE and show p-tau accumulation is associated with atrophy in CTE.

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