Hippocampal network abnormalities explain amnesia after VGKCC-Ab related autoimmune limbic encephalitis.
Loane C., Argyropoulos GPD., Roca-Fernández A., Lage C., Sheerin F., Ahmed S., Zamboni G., Mackay C., Irani SR., Butler CR.
OBJECTIVE: Limbic encephalitis associated with antibodies to components of the voltage-gated potassium channel complex (VGKCC-Ab-LE) often leads to hippocampal atrophy and persistent memory impairment. Its long-term impact on regions beyond the hippocampus, and the relationship between brain damage and cognitive outcome, are poorly understood. We investigated the nature of structural and functional brain abnormalities following VGKCC-Ab-LE and its role in residual memory impairment. METHOD: A cross-sectional group study was conducted. Twenty-four VGKCC-Ab-LE patients (20 male, 4 female; mean (SD) age 63.86 (11.31) years) were recruited post-acutely along with age- and sex-matched healthy controls for neuropsychological assessment, structural MRI and resting-state functional MRI (rs-fMRI). Structural abnormalities were determined using volumetry and voxel-based morphometry; rs-fMRI data were analysed to investigate hippocampal functional connectivity (FC). Associations of memory performance with neuroimaging measures were examined. RESULTS: Patients showed selective memory impairment. Structural analyses revealed focal hippocampal atrophy within the medial temporal lobes, correlative atrophy in the mediodorsal thalamus, and additional volume reduction in the posteromedial cortex. There was no association between regional volumes and memory performance. Instead, patients demonstrated reduced posteromedial cortico-hippocampal and inter-hippocampal FC, which correlated with memory scores (r = 0.553; r = 0.582, respectively). The latter declined as a function of time since the acute illness (r = -0.531). CONCLUSION: VGKCC-Ab-LE results in persistent isolated memory impairment. Patients have hippocampal atrophy with further reduced mediodorsal thalamic and posteromedial cortical volumes. Crucially, reduced FC of remaining hippocampal tissue correlates more closely with memory function than does regional atrophy.