The perspectives of mapping and monitoring of the sense of self in neurosurgical patients

Acta Neurochirurgica (2021) 163:1213–1226

Surgical treatment of tumors, epileptic foci or of vascular origin, requires a detailed individual pre-surgical workup and intraoperative surveillance of brain functions to minimize the risk of post-surgical neurological deficits and decline of quality of life. Most attention is attributed to language, motor functions, and perception. However, higher cognitive functions such as social cognition, personality, and the sense of self may be affected by brain surgery. To date, the precise localization and the network patterns of brain regions involved in such functions are not yet fully understood, making the assessment of risks of related postsurgical deficits difficult. It is in the interest of neurosurgeons to understand with which neural systems related to selfhood and personality they are interfering during surgery.

Recent neuroscience research using virtual reality and clinical observations suggest that the insular cortex, medial prefrontal cortex, and temporo-parietal junction are important components of a neural system dedicated to self-consciousness based on multisensory bodily processing, including exteroceptive and interoceptive cues (bodily self-consciousness (BSC)).

Here, we argue that combined extra- and intra-operative approaches using targeted cognitive testing, functional imaging and EEG, virtual reality, combined with multisensory stimulations, may contribute to the assessment of the BSC and related cognitive aspects. Although the usefulness of particular biomarkers, such as cardiac and respiratory signals linked to virtual reality, and of heartbeat evoked potentials as a surrogate marker for intactness of multisensory integration for intra-operative monitoring has to be proved, systemic and automatized testing of BSC in neurosurgical patients will improve future surgical outcome.

Is supratotal resection achievable in low-grade gliomas? Feasibility, putative factors, safety, and functional outcome

J Neurosurg 132:1692–1705, 2020

Surgery for low-grade gliomas (LGGs) aims to achieve maximal tumor removal and maintenance of patients’ functional integrity. Because extent of resection is one of the factors affecting the natural history of LGGs, surgery could be extended further than total resection toward a supratotal resection, beyond tumor borders detectable on FLAIR imaging. Supratotal resection is highly debated, mainly due to a lack of evidence of its feasibility and safety. The authors explored the intraoperative feasibility of supratotal resection and its short- and long-term impact on functional integrity in a large cohort of patients. The role of some putative factors in the achievement of supratotal resection was also studied.

METHODS Four hundred forty-nine patients with a presumptive radiological diagnosis of LGG consecutively admitted to the neurosurgical oncology service at the University of Milan over a 5-year period were enrolled. In all patients, a policy was adopted to perform surgery according to functional boundaries, aimed at achieving a supratotal resection whenever possible, without any patient or tumor a priori selection. Feasibility, general safety, and tumor or patient putative factors possibly affecting the achievement of a supratotal resection were analyzed. Postsurgical patient functional performance was evaluated in five cognitive domains (memory, language, praxis, executive functions, and fluid intelligence) using a detailed neuropsychological evaluation and quality of life (QOL) examination.

RESULTS Total resection was feasible in 40.8% of patients, and supratotal resection in 32.3%. The achievement of a supratotal versus total resection was independent of age, sex, education, tumor volume, deep extension, location, handedness, appearance of tumor border, vicinity to eloquent sites, surgical mapping time, or surgical tools applied. Supratotal resection was associated with a long clinical history and histological grade II, suggesting that reshaping of brain networks occurred. Although a consistent amount of apparently MRI-normal brain was removed with this approach, the procedure was safe and did not carry additional risk to the patient, as demonstrated by detailed neuropsychological evaluation and QOL examination. This approach also improved seizure control.

CONCLUSIONS Supratotal resection is feasible and safe in routine clinical practice. These results show that a long clinical history may be the main factor associated with its achievement.

Predicting Cognitive Improvement in Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus Patients Using Preoperative Neuropsychological Testing and Cerebrospinal Fluid Biomarkers

Neurosurgery 85:E662–E669, 2019

Though it is well known that normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH) patients can cognitively improve after ventriculoperitoneal shunting (VPS), one of the major dilemmas in NPH is the ability to prospectively predict which patients will improve.

OBJECTIVE: To prospectively assess preoperative predictors of postshunt cognitive improvement.

METHODS: This was a prospective observational cohort including 52 consecutive patients with approximately 1-yr follow-up. Patients underwent neuropsychological testing at baseline, postlumbar drainage, and postshunt. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) biomarkers and cortical biopsies were also collected to examine their relationship with postshunt cognitive improvement.

RESULTS: Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test-L (RAVLT-L) was the only neuropsychological test to demonstrate statistically significant improvement both postlumbar drain and postshunt. Improvement on the RAVLT-L postlumbar drain predicted improvement on the RAVLT-L postshunt. Patients with biopsies demonstrating Aβ+ Tau+ had lower ventricular CSF Aβ42 and higher lumbar CSF pTau compared to Aβ– Tau– patients. A receiver operating curve analysis using lumbar pTau predicted Aβ+ Tau+ biopsy status but was not related to neuropsychological test outcome.

CONCLUSION: The RAVLT can be a useful preoperative predictor of postoperative cognitive improvement, and thus, we recommend using the RAVLT to evaluate NPH patients. CSF biomarkers could not be related to neuropsychological test outcome. Future research in a larger patient sample will help determine the prospective utility of CSF biomarkers in the evaluation of NPH patients.


Parietal association deficits in patients harboring parietal lobe gliomas

J Neurosurg 130:773–779, 2019

Although the parietal lobe is a common site for glioma formation, current literature is scarce, consists of retrospective studies, and lacks consistency with regard to the incidence, nature, and severity of parietal association deficits (PADs).

The aim of this study was to assess the characteristics and incidence of PADs in patients suffering from parietal lobe gliomas through a prospective study and a battery of comprehensive neuropsychological tests.

METHODS Between 2012 and 2016 the authors recruited 38 patients with glioma confined in the parietal lobe. Patients were examined for primary and secondary association deficits with a dedicated battery of neuropsychological tests. The PADs were grouped into 5 categories: visuospatial attention, gnosis, praxis, upper-limb coordination, and language. For descriptive analysis tumors were divided into high- and low-grade gliomas and also according to patient age and tumor size.

RESULTS Parietal association deficits were elicited in 80% of patients, thus being more common than primary deficits (50%). Apraxia was the most common PAD (47.4%), followed by anomic aphasia and subcomponents of Gerstmann’s syndrome (34.2% each). Other deficits such as hemineglect, stereoagnosia, extinction, and visuomotor ataxia were also detected, albeit at lower rates. There was a statistically nonsignificant difference between PADs and sex (72.2% males, 85% females) and age (77.8% at ≤ 60 years, 80% at age > 60 years), but a statistically significant difference between the > 4 cm and the ≤ 4 cm diameter group (p = 0.02, 94.7% vs 63.2%, respectively). There was a tendency (p = 0.094) for low-grade gliomas to present with fewer PADs (50%) than high-grade gliomas (85.7%). Tumor laterality showed a strong correlation with hemineglect (p = 0.004, predilection for right hemisphere), anomia (p = 0.001), and Gerstmann’s symptoms (p = 0.01); the last 2 deficits showed a left (dominant) hemispheric preponderance.

CONCLUSIONS This is the first study to prospectively evaluate the incidence and nature of PADs in patients with parietal gliomas. It could be that the current literature may have underestimated the true incidence of deficits. Dedicated neuropsychological examination detects a high frequency of PADs, the most common being apraxia, followed by anomia and subcomponents of Gerstmann’s syndrome. Nevertheless, a direct correlation between the clinical deficit and its anatomical substrate is only possible to a limited extent, highlighting the need for intraoperative cortical and subcortical functional mapping.

Neuropsychological deficits of vmPFC meningiomas

The cognitive and behavioral effects of meningioma lesions involving the ventromedial prefrontal cortex

J Neurosurg 124:1568–1577, 2016

Anterior skull base meningiomas are frequently associated with changes in personality and behavior. Although such meningiomas often damage the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), which is important for higher cognition, the cognitive and behavioral effects of these meningiomas remain poorly understood. Using detailed neuropsychological assessments in a large series of patients, this study examined the cognitive and behavioral effects of meningioma lesions involving the vmPFC.

Methods: The authors reviewed neuropsychology and lesion mapping records of 70 patients who underwent resection of meningiomas. The patients were drawn from the Neurological Patient Registry at the University of Iowa. Patients were sorted into 2 groups: those with lesions involving the vmPFC and those with lesions that did not involve the vmPFC. Neuropsychological data pertaining to a comprehensive array of cognitive and behavioral domains were available preoperatively in 20 patients and postoperatively in all 70 patients.

Results: No change occurred in basic cognitive functions (e.g., attention, perception, memory, construction and motor performance, language, or executive functions) from the preoperative to postoperative epochs for the vmPFC and non-vmPFC groups. There was a significant decline in the behavioral domain, specifically adaptive function, for both the vmPFC and non-vmPFC groups, and this decline was more pronounced for the vmPFC group. Additionally, postoperative data indicated that the vmPFC group had a specific deficit in value-based decision making, as evidenced by poor performance on the Iowa Gambling Task, compared with the non-vmPFC group. The vmPFC and non-vmPFC groups did not differ postoperatively on other cognitive measures, including intellect, memory, language, and perception.

Conclusions: Lesions of the vmPFC resulting from meningiomas are associated with specific deficits in adaptive function and value-based decision making. Meningioma patients showed a decline in adaptive function postoperatively, and this decline was especially notable in patients with vmPFC region meningiomas. Early detection and resection of meningiomas of the anterior skull base (involving the gyrus rectus) may prevent these deficits.

The Impact of Sedation on Brain Mapping

Brain Mapping

Neurosurgery 75:117–123, 2014

During awake craniotomies, patients may either be awake for the entire duration of the surgical intervention (awake-awake-awake craniotomy, AAA) or initially sedated (asleep-awake-asleep craniotomy, SAS).

OBJECTIVE: To examine whether prior sedation in SAS may restrict brain mapping, we conducted neuropsychological tests in patients by means of a standardized anesthetic regimen comparable to an SAS.

METHODS: We prospectively examined patients undergoing surgery either under total intravenous anesthesia (TIVA) or under regional anesthesia with slight sedation (RAS). The tests included the DO40 picture-naming test, the digit span, the Regensburg Word Fluency Test, and the finger-tapping test. Each test was conducted 3 times for every patient in the TIVA and RAS groups, once before surgery and twice within about 35 minutes after the end of sedation. Patients undergoing AAA were examined preoperatively and intraoperatively.

RESULTS: In the AAA group, no significant difference was found between preoperative and intraoperative test results. In the TIVA and RAS groups, postoperative tests showed worse results than preoperative tests. In most tests, patients improved from the first to the second postoperative test.

CONCLUSION: Cognitive and motor performance were significantly influenced by prior sedation in the TIVA and RAS groups, but not in the AAA group. Therefore, prior sedation may be assumed to cause a change in the baselines, which may compromise brain mapping and thus endanger a patient’s neurological outcome in the case of an SAS.

Postshunt Cognitive and Functional Improvement in Idiopathic Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus

Neurosurgery 68:416–419, 2011 DOI: 10.1227/NEU.0b013e3181ff9d01

Improvement in gait after shunt placement has been well documented in idiopathic normal pressure hydrocephalus (iNPH); however, controversy remains regarding the extent and pattern of postsurgical cognitive changes. Conflicting findings may be explained by variability in both test selection and follow-up intervals across studies. Furthermore, most investigations lack a control group, making it difficult to disentangle practice effects from a true treatment effect.

OBJECTIVE: To examine postshunt changes in a sample of well-characterized iNPH participants compared with a group of age- and education-matched healthy control subjects.

METHODS: We identified 12 participants with iNPH undergoing shunt placement and 9 control participants. All participants were evaluated with comprehensive neuropsychological testing and standardized gait assessment at baseline and were followed up for 6 months.

RESULTS: Repeated-measures analysis of variance revealed a significant group- (iNPH and control) by-time (baseline and 6 months) interaction for Trailmaking Test B: (P< .003) and Symbol Digit Modalities (P< .02), with greater improvement in iNPH participants relative to control subjects. In addition, the iNPH group showed greater improvement in gait (P< .001) and caregivers reported improved activities of daily living (P , .01) and reduced caregiver distress (P< .01).

CONCLUSION: This study demonstrates improvements in mental tracking speed and sustained attention 6 months after shunt placement in iNPH. The present investigation is the first study to use a controlled design to show that cognitive improvement in iNPH is independent of practice effects. Furthermore, these findings indicate functional and quality-of-life improvements for both the shunt responder and their caregiver.