Assessment of white matter tract damage in mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease

Michela Pievani, Federica Agosta, Elisabetta Pagani, Elisa Canu, Stefania Sala, Martina Absinta, Cristina Geroldi, Rossana Ganzola, Giovanni B Frisoni, Massimo Filippi
Human Brain Mapping 2010, 31 (12): 1862-75
Diffusion tensor MRI-based tractography was used to investigate white matter (WM) changes in the major limbic (i.e., fornix and cingulum) and cortico-cortical association pathways [i.e., the uncinate fasciculus, the inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus, the inferior longitudinal fasciculus (ILF), the superior longitudinal fasciculus, and the corpus callosum] in 25 Alzheimer's disease (AD) patients, 19 amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI) patients, and 15 healthy controls (HC). Mean diffusivity (MD), fractional anisotropy (FA), as well as axial (DA) and radial (DR) diffusivities were measured for each tract, using an atlas-based tractography approach. The association of WM tract integrity with hippocampal volume was also assessed. MD values were significantly different among groups in all WM tracts (P values ranging from 0.002 to 0.03), except in the fornix (P = 0.06) and the inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus (P = 0.09). Conversely, FA was significantly different among groups in the fornix only (P = 0.02). DA values were significantly different among groups in all WM tracts (P values ranging from 0.001 to 0.01), except in the fornix (P = 0.13) and the cingulum (P = 0.29). Significantly different DR values among groups were found in the fornix (P = 0.02) and the ILF (P = 0.01). In the fornix and cingulum, DR was significantly more increased than DA in both patient groups compared to HC. No difference in DA versus DR was found in cortico-cortical WM tracts. DA values in the fornix were significantly correlated with the hippocampal volume. This study demonstrates a different pattern of WM involvement in the limbic and cortico-cortical association pathways in aMCI and AD patients.

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