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Data-driven regions of interest for longitudinal change in frontotemporal lobar degeneration.


Current research is investigating the potential utility of longitudinal measurement of brain structure as a marker of drug effect in clinical trials for neurodegenerative disease. Recent studies in Alzheimer's disease (AD) have shown that measurement of change in empirically derived regions of interest (ROIs) allows more reliable measurement of change over time compared with regions chosen a-priori based on known effects of AD on brain anatomy. Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) is a devastating neurodegenerative disorder for which there are no approved treatments. The goal of this study was to identify an empirical ROI that maximizes the effect size for the annual rate of brain atrophy in FTLD compared with healthy age matched controls, and to estimate the effect size and associated power estimates for a theoretical study that would use change within this ROI as an outcome measure. Eighty six patients with FTLD were studied, including 43 who were imaged twice at 1.5 T and 43 at 3 T, along with 105 controls (37 imaged at 1.5 T and 67 at 3 T). Empirically-derived maps of change were generated separately for each field strength and included the bilateral insula, dorsolateral, medial and orbital frontal, basal ganglia and lateral and inferior temporal regions. The extent of regions included in the 3 T map was larger than that in the 1.5 T map. At both field strengths, the effect sizes for imaging were larger than for any clinical measures. At 3 T, the effect size for longitudinal change measured within the empirically derived ROI was larger than the effect sizes derived from frontal lobe, temporal lobe or whole brain ROIs. The effect size derived from the data-driven 1.5 T map was smaller than at 3 T, and was not larger than the effect size derived from a-priori ROIs. It was estimated that measurement of longitudinal change using 1.5 T MR systems requires approximately a 3-fold increase in sample size to obtain effect sizes equivalent to those seen at 3 T. While the results should be confirmed in additional datasets, these results indicate that empirically derived ROIs can reduce the number of subjects needed for a longitudinal study of drug effects in FTLD compared with a-priori ROIs. Field strength may have a significant impact on the utility of imaging for measuring longitudinal change.

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