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J Neurosci. 2010 Dec 15;30(50):16876-85. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4136-10.2010.

Diffusion tensor tractography reveals abnormal topological organization in structural cortical networks in Alzheimer's disease.

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  • 1Department of Biomedical Imaging and Radiological Sciences, National Yang-Ming University, Taipei 11221, Taiwan.


Recent research on Alzheimer's disease (AD) has shown that the decline of cognitive and memory functions is accompanied by a disrupted neuronal connectivity characterized by white matter (WM) degeneration. However, changes in the topological organization of WM structural network in AD remain largely unknown. Here, we used diffusion tensor image tractography to construct the human brain WM networks of 25 AD patients and 30 age- and sex-matched healthy controls, followed by a graph theoretical analysis. We found that both AD patients and controls had a small-world topology in WM network, suggesting an optimal balance between structurally segregated and integrative organization. More important, the AD patients exhibited increased shortest path length and decreased global efficiency in WM network compared with controls, implying abnormal topological organization. Furthermore, we showed that the WM network contained highly connected hub regions that were predominately located in the precuneus, cingulate cortex, and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which was consistent with the previous diffusion-MRI studies. Specifically, AD patients were found to have reduced nodal efficiency predominantly located in the frontal regions. Finally, we showed that the alterations of various network properties were significantly correlated with the behavior performances. Together, the present study demonstrated for the first time that the Alzheimer's brain was associated with disrupted topological organization in the large-scale WM structural networks, thus providing the structural evidence for abnormalities of systematic integrity in this disease. This work could also have implications for understanding how the abnormalities of structural connectivity in AD underlie behavioral deficits in the patients.

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