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Altered Resting-State Functional Connectivity in Wernicke's Encephalopathy With Vestibular Impairment.

Front Neurol. 2019 Sep 27;10:1035. doi: 10.3389/fneur.2019.01035. eCollection 2019.

Authors/Editors: Oh SY, Lee J, Kang JJ, Park YH, Kim KW, Lee JM, Kim JS, Dieterich M.
Publication Date: 2019



Objectives: To reveal the neural basis of Wernicke's encephalopathy (WE) with impaired vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR), we evaluated resting-state functional connectivity (rs-fc) in the vestibular processing brain regions.

Methods: Rs-fc between the vestibular regions and the rest of the brain were compared with neurotological features including the head-impulse tests (vHIT) and caloric responses in patients with WE (n = 5, mean age 53.4 ± 10 years) and healthy controls (n = 20, mean age 55.0 ± 9.2 years). Rs-fc analyses employed a region of interest (ROI)-based approach using regions selected a priori that participate in vestibular processing including the cerebellar vermis, insula, parietal operculum, and calcarine cortex.

Results: The main neurologic findings for patients with WE were mental changes; gait ataxia; spontaneous and gaze-evoked nystagmus (GEN); and bilaterally positive HIT for the horizontal canals. Video HIT documented bilateral horizontal canal dysfunction with decreased gain and corrective saccades. Caloric irrigation and rotation chair testing revealed prominent bilateral horizontal canal paresis. Patients with WE also had decreased spatial memory, which substantially recovered after treatments. Functional connections at the predefined seed regions, including the insular cortex and parietal operculum, were attenuated in the WE group compared to healthy controls.

Conclusions: WE is related to impaired VOR and visuospatial dysfunction, and fMRI documented changes in the rs-fc of multisensory vestibular processing regions including the insula, parietal operculum, and superior temporal gyrus, which participate in integration of vestibular perception.

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