The function of white matter networks of the human brain is a key inquiry of contemporary neuroscience. Initial observations suggest that damage to the white matter system connecting the pre-supplementary and supplementary motor areas ((pre)SMA) with frontal cortices and caudate nuclei may impair both language and cognition. However, it is unclear which exact cognitive mechanisms are compromised and if specific projections of this network obey to a division of labor. Providing this knowledge is of the utmost importance for a variety of neurological populations, but especially for Huntington´s Disease (HD) - a rare genetic disease that represents a neurodegeneration model, with alterations in both (pre)SMA system and language/cognitive difficulties. PreSMAcog proposes a multidisciplinary, precise description of the (pre)SMA system. To achieve this, I will (1) provide a neuroanatomical characterization of the system using structural neuroimaging techniques (diffusion tensor imaging) and laboratory dissections in both HD and healthy individuals, (2) explore the links between structural properties of the (pre)SMA system and cognition and (3) design a sensitive tele-assessment of language and cognition in HD. I will conduct this research in Barcelona joining a team of ultimate experts in neuroimaging and language/cognitive neuroscience with long-standing experience in HD research. Furthermore, I will implement, for the first time in HD, an innovative brain connectivity mapping technique supervised by its pioneer (secondment in Oxford). PreSMAcog will enhance my current expertise leading me towards independence in multidisciplinary neuroscience research and academic leadership. The synergy between four major disciplines of neuroscience (neuroanatomy, language/cognitive neuroscience, neuroimaging, and neuropsychology) and between two excellent academic centers will allow to precisely describe the (pre)SMA system and to understand its role in cognition in health and HD.
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