Methods: Thirty-two individuals with premanifest HD and twenty-nine healthy age- and gender-matched controls participated in this dual-site, cross-sectional study. Magnetic resonance imaging scans were performed to evaluate hypothalamic volume. Circadian rhythm and habitual sleep were assessed via measurement of morning and evening cortisol and melatonin levels, wrist-worn actigraphy, the Consensus Sleep Diary and sleep questionnaires. Information on mood, physical activity levels and body composition were also collected.
Results: Compared to healthy controls, individuals with premanifest HD displayed significantly reduced grey matter volume in the hypothalamus, decreased habitual sleep efficiency and increased awakenings; however, no alterations in morning cortisol or evening melatonin release were noted in individuals with premanifest HD. While differences in the associations between hypothalamic volume and cortisol and melatonin output existed in individuals with premanifest HD compared to healthy controls, no consistent associations were observed between hypothalamic volume and circadian rhythm or habitual sleep outcomes.
Conclusion: While significant differences in associations between hypothalamic volume and cortisol and melatonin existed between individuals with premanifest HD and healthy controls, no differences in circadian markers were observed between the groups. This suggests that circadian regulation is maintained despite hypothalamic pathology, perhaps via neural compensation. Longitudinal studies are required to further understand the relationships between the hypothalamus and circadian rhythm and habitual sleep disturbances in HD as the disease course lengthens.
- Circadian rhythm
- Huntington's disease
- Magnetic resonance imaging