Introduction: Extrapyramidal deficits are poorly characterised in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) despite their contribution to functional disability, increased fall risk and their quality-of-life implications. Given the concomitant pyramidal and cerebellar degeneration in ALS, the clinical assessment of extrapyramidal features is particularly challenging. Objective: The comprehensive characterisation of postural instability in ALS using standardised clinical assessments, gait analyses and computational neuroimaging tools in a prospective study design. Methods: Parameters of gait initiation in the anticipatory postural adjustment phase (APA) and execution phase (EP) were evaluated in ALS patients with and without postural instability and healthy controls. Clinical and gait analysis parameters were interpreted in the context of brain imaging findings. Results: ALS patients with postural instability exhibit impaired gait initiation with an altered APA phase, poor dynamic postural control and significantly decreased braking index. Consistent with their clinical profile, “unsteady” ALS patients have reduced caudate and brain stem volumes compared to “steady” ALS patients. Interpretation: Our findings highlight that the ALS functional rating scale (ALSFRS-r) does not account for extrapyramidal deficits, which are major contributors to gait impairment in a subset of ALS patients. Basal ganglia degeneration in ALS does not only contribute to cognitive and behavioural deficits, but also adds to the heterogeneity of motor disability.
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
- Basal ganglia
- Gait impairment
- Magnetic resonance imaging
- Postural instability