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Keywords:

  • Olivopontocerebellar atrophy;
  • Multiple system atrophy;
  • Morphometry

Abstract

Olivopontocerebellar atrophy (OPCA) is widely accepted as part of the neuropathological spectrum of multiple system atrophy (MSA). The distribution of affected sites in the olivopontocerebellar (OPC) system and their interrelationship remain poorly understood due to lack of quantitative studies. To further investigate the OPC pathology in MSA, we performed a morphometric analysis of 20 MSA cases and eight healthy controls. In the MSA cases, mean neuronal cell densities were significantly reduced in (medial and dorsal) accessory and principal inferior olives, pontine nuclei, cerebellar vermis (except nodulus), and hemispheres. Inferior olives and pontine nuclei were more severely affected than cerebellar Purkinje cells in most cases. Cerebellar Purkinje cells were more severely depleted in vermis rather than in hemisphere. There was a poor topographic correlation between neuronal cell loss in inferior olives and cerebellar cortex. These results suggest a primary degeneration of olivopontine nuclei and cerebellar Purkinje cells in OPCA. Inferior olives, pontine nuclei and cerebellar cortex were all significantly more severely affected in cases with a pure or predominating cerebellar syndrome (OPCA type, n = 4) compared to those with pure or predominating parkinsonism (SND type, n = 14). However, although cerebellar signs had been noted in life in only six cases, morphometry revealed OPCA in 17 of the 20 MSA brains.