Objective: To investigate whether early neurochemical abnormalities are detectable by high-field magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) in individuals with spinocerebellar ataxias (SCAs) 1, 2, 3, and 6, including patients without manifestation of ataxia. Methods: A cohort of 100 subjects (N = 18–21 in each SCA group, including premanifest mutation carriers; mean score on the Scale for the Assessment and Rating of Ataxia [SARA] <10 for all genotypes, and 22 matched controls) was scanned at 7 Tesla to obtain neurochemical profiles of the cerebellum and brainstem. A novel multivariate approach (distance-weighted discrimination) was used to combine regional profiles into an “MRS score.”. Results: MRS scores robustly distinguished individuals with SCA from controls, with misclassification rates of 0% (SCA2), 2% (SCA3), 5% (SCA1), and 17% (SCA6). Premanifest mutation carriers with estimated disease onset within 10 years had MRS scores in the range of early-manifest SCA subjects. Levels of neuronal and glial markers significantly correlated with SARA and an Activities of Daily Living score in subjects with SCA. Regional neurochemical alterations were different between SCAs at comparable disease severity, with SCA2 displaying the most extensive neurochemical abnormalities, followed by SCA1, SCA3, and SCA6. Interpretation: Neurochemical abnormalities are detectable in individuals before manifest disease, which may allow premanifest enrollment in future SCA trials. Correlations with ataxia and quality-of-life scores show that neurochemical levels can serve as clinically meaningful endpoints in trials. Ranking of SCA types by degree of neurochemical abnormalities indicates that the neurochemistry may reflect synaptic function or density. Ann Neurol 2018;83:816–829.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) grants R01 NS070815 and R01 NS080816 and Jay D. Schlueter Ataxia Research Fund. The Center for Magnetic Resonance Research is supported by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) grant P41 EB015894 and the Institutional Center Cores for Advanced Neuroimaging award P30 NS076408. Research reported in this publication was also supported by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health Award Number UL1TR000114. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.