Von economo neuron pathology in familial dysautonomia: Quantitative assessment and possible implications

Sarah Jacot-Descombes, Neha Keshav, Carla Micaela Santos Brosch, Bridget Wicinski, Tahia Warda, Lucy Norcliffe-Kaufmann, Horacio Kaufmann, Merina Varghese, Patrick R. Hof

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

Von Economo neurons (VENs) and fork cells are principally located in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and the frontoinsular cortex (FI). Both of these regions integrate inputs from the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and are involved in decision-making and perception of the emotional states of self and others. Familial dysautonomia (FD) is an orphan disorder characterized by autonomic dysfunction and behavioral abnormalities including repetitive behavior and emotional rigidity, which are also seen in autism spectrum disorder. To understand a possible link between the ANS and the cortical regions implicated in emotion regulation we studied VENs and fork cells in an autonomic disorder. We determined the densities of VENs, fork cells, and pyramidal neurons and the ratio of VENs and fork cells to pyramidal neurons in ACC and FI in 4 FD patient and 6 matched control brains using a stereologic approach. We identified alterations in densities of VENs and pyramidal neurons and their distributions in the ACC and FI in FD brains. These data suggest that alterations in migration and numbers of VENs may be involved in FD pathophysiology thereby supporting the notion of a functional link between VENs, the ANS and the peripheral nervous system in general.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1072-1083
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology
Volume79
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - 2020

Keywords

  • Anterior cingulate cortex
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Autonomic nervous system
  • Familial dysautonomia
  • Fork cells
  • Frontoinsular cortex
  • Von Economo neurons

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