Background: Recent studies have suggested that essential tremor (ET) is a more complex and heterogeneous clinical entity than initially thought. In the present study, we assessed the pattern of cortical thickness and diffusion tensor white matter (WM) changes in patients with ET according to the response to propranolol to explore the pathogenesis underlying the clinical heterogeneity of ET. Methods: A total of 32 patients with drug naive ET were recruited prospectively from the Movement Disorders outpatient clinic. The patients were divided into a propranolol-responder group (n = 18) and a non-responder group (n = 14). We analyzed the pattern of cortical thickness and diffusion tensor WM changes between these two groups and performed correlation analysis between imaging and clinical parameters. Results: There were no significant differences in demographic characteristics, general cognition, or results of detailed neuropsychological tests between the groups. The non-responder group showed more severe cortical atrophy in the left orbitofrontal cortex and right temporal cortex relative to responders. However, the responders exhibited significantly lower fractional anisotropy values in the bilateral frontal, corpus callosal, and right parietotemporal WM compared with the non-responder group. There were no significant clusters where the cortical thickness or WM alterations were significantly correlated with initial tremor severity or disease duration. Conclusions: The present data suggest that patients with ET have heterogeneous cortical thinning and WM alteration with respect to responsiveness to propranolol, suggesting that propranolol responsiveness may be a predictive factor to determine ET subtypes in terms of neuroanatomical heterogeneity.
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