While motor dysfunction is the primary neurological hallmark of FRDA, little is known about the underlying neurobiological changes associated with motor deficits over the course of disease. The authors investigated the hypothesis that progressive functional changes in both the cerebellum and cerebrum are related to longitudinal changes in performance on complex motor tasks in individuals with FRDA. Twenty-two individuals with FRDA and 28 controls participated over 24 months. The longitudinal investigation included finger tapping tasks with different levels of complexity (i.e., visually cued, multi-finger; self-paced, single finger), performed in conjunction with fMRI acquisitions, to interrogate changes in the neurobiology of motor and attentional brain networks including the cerebellum and cerebrum. This study demonstrated evidence for significant longitudinal decreased cerebral fMRI activity over time in individuals with FRDA, relative to controls, during an attentionally-demanding motor task (visually cued tapping of multiple fingers) in six cerebral regions: right and left superior frontal gyri, right superior temporal gyrus, right primary somatosensory area, right anterior cingulate cortex, and right medial frontal gyrus. Importantly, longitudinal decreased activity was associated with more severe disease status at baseline, higher GAA1 repeat length and earlier age of onset. These findings suggest a dynamic pattern of neuronal activity in motor, attention and executive control networks over time in individuals with FRDA, which is associated with increased disease severity at baseline, increased GAA1 repeat length and earlier age at onset.

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