Association between fully automated MRI-based volumetry of different brain regions and neuropsychological test performance in patients with amnestic mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease

Sönke Arlt, Ralph Buchert, Lothar Spies, Martin Eichenlaub, Jan T Lehmbeck, Holger Jahn
European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience 2013, 263 (4): 335-44
Fully automated magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)-based volumetry may serve as biomarker for the diagnosis in patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or dementia. We aimed at investigating the relation between fully automated MRI-based volumetric measures and neuropsychological test performance in amnestic MCI and patients with mild dementia due to Alzheimer's disease (AD) in a cross-sectional and longitudinal study. In order to assess a possible prognostic value of fully automated MRI-based volumetry for future cognitive performance, the rate of change of neuropsychological test performance over time was also tested for its correlation with fully automated MRI-based volumetry at baseline. In 50 subjects, 18 with amnestic MCI, 21 with mild AD, and 11 controls, neuropsychological testing and T1-weighted MRI were performed at baseline and at a mean follow-up interval of 2.1 ± 0.5 years (n = 19). Fully automated MRI volumetry of the grey matter volume (GMV) was performed using a combined stereotactic normalisation and segmentation approach as provided by SPM8 and a set of pre-defined binary lobe masks. Left and right hippocampus masks were derived from probabilistic cytoarchitectonic maps. Volumes of the inner and outer liquor space were also determined automatically from the MRI. Pearson's test was used for the correlation analyses. Left hippocampal GMV was significantly correlated with performance in memory tasks, and left temporal GMV was related to performance in language tasks. Bilateral frontal, parietal and occipital GMVs were correlated to performance in neuropsychological tests comprising multiple domains. Rate of GMV change in the left hippocampus was correlated with decline of performance in the Boston Naming Test (BNT), Mini-Mental Status Examination, and trail making test B (TMT-B). The decrease of BNT and TMT-A performance over time correlated with the loss of grey matter in multiple brain regions. We conclude that fully automated MRI-based volumetry allows detection of regional grey matter volume loss that correlates with neuropsychological performance in patients with amnestic MCI or mild AD. Because of the high level of automation, MRI-based volumetry may easily be integrated into clinical routine to complement the current diagnostic procedure.

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