Mapping progressive brain structural changes in early Alzheimer's disease and mild cognitive impairment.

Department of Neurology, David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA, CA, United States.
Neuropsychologia (Impact Factor: 3.45). 02/2008; 46(6):1597-612. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2007.10.026
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Alzheimer's disease (AD), the most common neurodegenerative disorder of the elderly, ranks third in health care cost after heart disease and cancer. Given the disproportionate aging of the population in all developed countries, the socio-economic impact of AD will continue to rise. Mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a transitional state between normal aging and dementia, carries a four- to sixfold increased risk of future diagnosis of dementia. As complete drug-induced reversal of AD symptoms seems unlikely, researchers are now focusing on the earliest stages of AD where a therapeutic intervention is likely to realize the greatest impact. Recently neuroimaging has received significant scientific consideration as a promising in vivo disease-tracking modality that can also provide potential surrogate biomarkers for therapeutic trials. While several volumetric techniques laid the foundation of the neuroimaging research in AD and MCI, more precise computational anatomy techniques have recently become available. This new technology detects and visualizes discrete changes in cortical and hippocampal integrity and tracks the spread of AD pathology throughout the living brain. Related methods can visualize regionally specific correlations between brain atrophy and important proxy measures of disease such as neuropsychological tests, age of onset or factors that may influence disease progression. We describe extensively validated cortical and hippocampal mapping techniques that are sensitive to clinically relevant changes even in the single individual, and can identify group differences in epidemiological studies or clinical treatment trials. We give an overview of some recent neuroimaging advances in AD and MCI and discuss strengths and weaknesses of the various analytic approaches.

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