Progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) is a 4-repeat tauopathy with neurodegeneration typically observed in the superior cerebellar peduncle (SCP) and dentatorubrothalamic tracts (DRTT). However, it is unclear how these tracts are differentially affected in different clinical variants of PSP.
To determine whether diffusion tractography of the SCP and DRTT can differentiate autopsy-confirmed PSP with Richardson’s syndrome (PSP-RS) and PSP with predominant speech/language disorder (PSP-SL).
We studied 22 autopsy-confirmed PSP patients that included 12 with PSP-RS and 10 with PSP-SL. We compared these two groups to 11 patients with autopsy-confirmed Alzheimer’s disease with SL problems, i.e., logopenic progressive aphasia (AD-LPA) (disease controls) and 10 healthy controls. Whole brain tractography was performed to identify the SCP and DRTT, as well as the frontal aslant tract and superior longitudinal fasciculus. We assessed fractional anisotropy and mean diffusivity for each tract. Hierarchical linear modeling was used for statistical comparisons, and correlations were assessed with clinical disease severity, ocular motor impairment, and parkinsonism. DRTT connectomics matrix analysis was also performed across groups.
The SCP showed decreased fractional anisotropy for PSP-RS and PSP-SL and increased mean diffusivity in PSP-RS, compared to controls and AD-LPA. Right DRTT fibers showed lower fractional anisotropy in PSP-RS and PSP-SL compared to controls and AD-LPA, with PSP-RS also showing lower values compared to PSP-SL. Reductions in connectivity were observed in infratentorial DRTT regions in PSP-RS vs cortical regions in PSP-SL. PSP-SL showed greater abnormalities in the frontal aslant tract and superior longitudinal fasciculus compared to controls, PSP-RS, and AD-LPA. Significant correlations were observed between ocular motor impairment and SCP in PSP-RS (p = 0.042), and DRTT in PSP-SL (p = 0.022). In PSP-SL, the PSP Rating Scale correlated with the SCP (p = 0.045) and DRTT (p = 0.008), and the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale correlated with the DRTT (p = 0.014).
Degeneration of the SCP and DRTT are diagnostic features of both PSP-RS and PSP-SL and associations with clinical metrics validate the role of these tracts in PSP-related clinical features, particularly in PSP-SL.

Copyright © 2022 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.