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Joubert syndrome: neuroimaging findings in 110 patients in correlation with cognitive function and genetic cause


Background Joubert syndrome is a clinically and genetically heterogeneous ciliopathy. Neuroimaging findings have not been systematically evaluated in a large cohort of patients with Joubert syndrome in correlation with molecular genetic cause and cognitive function.

Methods Brain MRI of 110 patients with Joubert syndrome was included in this study. A comprehensive evaluation of brain MRI studies for infratentorial and supratentorial morphological abnormalities was performed. Genetic cause was identified by whole-exome sequencing, and cognitive functions were assessed with age-appropriate neurocognitive tests in a subset of patients.

Results The cerebellar hemispheres were enlarged in 18% of the patients, mimicking macrocerebellum. The posterior fossa was enlarged in 42% of the patients, resembling Dandy-Walker malformation. Abnormalities of the brainstem, such as protuberance at the ventral contour of the midbrain, were present in 66% of the patients. Abnormalities of the supratentorial brain were present in approximately one-third of the patients, most commonly malrotation of the hippocampi. Mild ventriculomegaly, which typically did not require shunting, was present in 23% of the patients. No correlation between neuroimaging findings and molecular genetic cause was apparent. A novel predictor of outcome was identified; the more severe the degree of vermis hypoplasia, the worse the neurodevelopmental outcome was.

Conclusions The spectrum of neuroimaging findings in Joubert syndrome is wide. Neuroimaging does not predict the genetic cause, but may predict the neurodevelopmental outcome. A high degree of vermis hypoplasia correlates with worse neurodevelopmental outcome. This finding is important for prognostic counselling in Joubert syndrome.

  • Joubert syndrome
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Cerebellar malformation
  • Cognition
  • Ciliopathy
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