We recently discovered an autosomal dominant disease causing a progressive dementia. The disease is caused by a point mutation in the gene coding for the serine protease inhibitor (ie, serpin) neuroserpin. The mutation results in an unstable neuroserpin protein that readily aggregates into intraneuronal inclusions that we identify as Collins bodies. The bodies are distributed throughout the cerebral hemispheres but are significantly more numerous in the cortex and the substantia nigra. We have named the disease familial encephalopathy with neuroserpin inclusion bodies (FENIB).
To describe the cognitive and neurophysiological changes exhibited by individuals with FENIB and to correlate the phenotypic expression of the disease with the neuropathological findings.
Multiple case studies using neuropsychological assessment, electroencephalography (EEG), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and single-photon emission computed tomographic (SPECT) studies of family members were performed. Using these measures, we also compared family members in whom the mutation is present with family members in whom the mutation was absent to control for nonspecific familial factors.
Nine individuals (5 women, aged 31-64 years; 4 men, aged 43-67 years) from 2 generations of family members related to the first reliably identified individual with symptoms of this disease. Symptoms, by self-report and reports of other family members, ranged from asymptomatic to severe dementia. Six of the 9 individuals carried the disease mutation.
All subjects with the mutation demonstrated some cognitive changes, with the greatest demonstrated by subjects older than 40 years. The changes included restricted attention, concentration, and response regulation functions, reduced controlled oral fluency (word-list generation), and restricted visuospatial organization. In general, recall memory was not as affected as other cognitive domains. The most severely affected subject demonstrated global dementia with prominent frontal lobe features. Findings on SPECT showed anomalies limited to frontal areas in the less affected subjects and more global, patchy areas of hypoperfusion in the more severely affected subjects. The 3 oldest and most affected subjects demonstrated slowing on EEG findings. The MRI findings were noncontributory except in the 2 most severe cases, which showed global cortical atrophy.
Cognitive changes in mildly to moderately affected subjects were characterized by deficits in frontal and frontal-subcortical area–dependent processes. Continued progressive deterioration of cerebral functions with relative sparing of recall memory suggests a unique dementia associated with this disease.