Emerging evidence suggests that memory deficit in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a neurodegenerative disease with varying impairment of motor abilities and cognitive profile, may be independent from executive dysfunction. Our multimodal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) approach, including resting state functional MRI (RS-fMRI), diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and voxel-based morphometry (VBM), aimed to investigate structural and functional changes within and beyond the Papez circuit in non-demented ALS patients (n = 32) compared with healthy controls (HCs, n = 21), and whether these changes correlated with neuropsychological measures of verbal and non-verbal memory. We revealed a decreased functional connectivity between bilateral hippocampus, bilateral parahippocampal gyri and cerebellum in ALS patients compared with HCs. Between-group comparisons revealed white matter abnormalities in the genu and body of the corpus callosum and bilateral cortico-spinal tracts, superior longitudinal and uncinate fasciculi in ALS patients (p < .05, family-wise error corrected). Interestingly, changes of Digit Span forward performance were inversely related to RS-fMRI signal fluctuations in the cerebellum, while changes of both episodic and visual memory scores were inversely related to mean and radial diffusivity abnormalities in several WM fiber tracts, including middle cerebellar peduncles. Our findings revealed that ALS patients showed significant functional and structural connectivity changes across the regions comprising the Papez circuit, as well as more extended areas including cerebellum and frontal, temporal and parietal areas, supporting the theory of a multi-system pathology in ALS that spreads from cortical to subcortical structures.
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