The visual cortex and visual cognition in Huntington's disease: An overview of current literature.

Coppen EM, van der Grond J, Hart EP, Lakke EAJF, Roos RAC

The processing of visual stimuli from retina to higher cortical areas has been extensively studied in the human brain. In Huntington's disease (HD), an inherited neurodegenerative disorder, it is suggested that visual processing deficits are present in addition to more characteristic signs such as motor disturbances, cognitive dysfunction, and behavioral changes. Visual deficits are clinically important because they influence overall cognitive performance and have implications for daily functioning. The aim of this review is to summarize current literature on clinical visual deficits, visual cognitive impairment, and underlying visual cortical changes in HD patients. A literature search was conducted using the electronic database of PubMed/Medline. This review shows that changes of the visual system in patients with HD were not the primary focus of currently published studies. Still, early atrophy and alterations of the posterior cerebral cortex was frequently observed, primarily in the associative visual cortical areas such as the lingual and fusiform gyri, and lateral occipital cortex. Changes were even present in the premanifest phase, before clinical onset of motor symptoms, suggesting a primary region for cortical degeneration in HD. Although impairments in visuospatial processing and visual perception were reported in early disease stages, heterogeneous cognitive batteries were used, making a direct comparison between studies difficult. The use of a standardized battery of visual cognitive tasks might therefore provide more detailed information regarding the extent of impairments in specific visual domains. Further research could provide more insight into clinical, functional, and pathophysiological changes of the visual pathway in HD.