Eye movement alterations in presymptomatic C9orf72 expansion gene carriers.

The clinical manifestation of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is characterized by motor neuron degeneration, whereas frontotemporal dementia (FTD) patients show alterations of behavior and cognition. Both share repeat expansions in C9orf72 as the most prevalent genetic cause. Before disease-defining symptoms onset, structural and functional changes at cortical level may emerge in C9orf72 carriers. Here, we characterized oculomotor parameters and their association to neuropsychological domains in apparently asymptomatic individuals with mutations in ALS/FTD genes.Forty-eight carriers of ALS genes, without any clinical symptoms underwent video-oculographic examination, including 22 subjects with C9orf72 mutation, 17 with SOD1, and 9 with other ALS associated gene mutations (n = 3 KIF5A; n = 3 FUS/FUS + TBK1; n = 1 NEK1; n = 1 SETX; n = 1 TDP43). A total of 17 subjects underwent a follow-up measurement. Data were compared to 54 age- and gender-matched healthy controls. Additionally, mutation carriers performed a neuropsychological assessment.In comparison to controls, the presymptomatic subjects performed significantly worse in executive oculomotor tasks such as the ability to perform correct anti-saccades. A gene mutation subgroup analysis showed that dysfunctions in C9orf72 carriers were much more pronounced than in SOD1 carriers. The anti-saccade error rate of ALS mutation carriers was associated with cognitive deficits: this correlation was increased in subjects with C9orf72 mutation, whereas SOD1 carriers showed no associations.In C9orf72 carriers, executive eye movement dysfunctions, especially the increased anti-saccade error rate, were associated with cognitive impairment and unrelated to time. These oculomotor impairments are in support of developmental deficits in these mutations, especially in prefrontal areas.

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Authors: Anna Behler, Antje Knehr, Julia Finsel, Martin S Kunz, Christina Lang, Kathrin Müller, Hans-Peter Müller, Elmar H Pinkhardt, Albert C Ludolph, Dorothée Lulé, Jan Kassubek