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Degeneration of cholinergic white matter pathways and nucleus basalis of Meynert in individuals with objective subtle cognitive impairment.

Neurobiology of Aging 2023 September 26
We evaluated alterations in the nucleus basalis of Meynert (NBM) volume and integrity of cholinergic white matter pathways in objective subtle cognitive impairment (Obj-SCI) individuals. NBM segmentation and cholinergic pathways tracking were conducted at baseline, 12-, 24-, and 48-month follow-ups in 41 Obj-SCI individuals and 61 healthy controls (HC). The baseline and 4-year rate of change in NBM volume and cholinergic pathways mean diffusivity were compared. Associations between cholinergic index changes and pathological processes and cognitive performance were evaluated. After controlling for age, sex, APOE genotype, and total intracranial volume, Obj-SCI individuals exhibited reduced NBM volume and increased medial pathway mean diffusivity compared to HC at baseline. Furthermore, amyloid-positive Obj-SCI individuals exhibited a steeper longitudinal decline in NBM volume than HC. Additionally, decreases in NBM volume and cholinergic pathways integrity were associated with amyloid and vascular pathologies and cognitive decline. Overall, degeneration of the cholinergic system plays an important role in cognitive impairment during the preclinical stage of Alzheimer's disease, which may provide a significant target for early therapeutic interventions.

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