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Neurology. 2011 Feb 22;76(8):727-33. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e31820d62d9.

Local amygdala structural differences with 3T MRI in patients with Alzheimer disease.

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  • 1LENITEM (Laboratory of Epidemiology Neuroimaging & Telemedicine), IRCCS Centro San Giovanni di Dio Fatebenefratelli, Brescia, Italy.



Histologic studies show that the amygdala is affected by Alzheimer disease (AD) pathology, and its medial aspect is the most involved. We aimed to assess in vivo local structural differences in the amygdala of patients with AD using high-field MRI.


A total of 19 patients with AD (mean age 76, SD 6 years, mean Mini-Mental State Examination score [MMSE] 13, SD 4) and 19 healthy elderly controls (age 74, SD 5, MMSE 29, SD 1) were enrolled. The radial atrophy mapping technique was used to reconstruct the 3-dimensional surface of the amygdala. Maps of surface tissue loss in patients with AD vs controls were computed and statistically tested with permutation tests thresholded at p < 0.05, to correct for multiple comparisons. A digital atlas of the amygdalar nuclei was used to infer which nuclei were involved.


Both amygdalar volumes were significantly smaller in patients with AD (right 1,508 mm³, SD 418; left 1,646, SD 419) than controls (right 2,129 mm³, SD 316; left 2,077, SD 376; p < 0.002). In the dorsomedial part, significant local tissue loss (20%-30%) was mapped in the medial and central nuclei. Ventrally, the lateral nucleus (La) and the basolateral ventral medial nucleus (BLVM) were also involved (20%-30% loss).


We found in vivo local structural differences in the amygdala of patients with AD. The nuclei involved have known connections to the hippocampus (BLVM, La) and olfactory system (medial nucleus) and with cholinergic pathways (central nucleus). This pattern is consistent with the known pathophysiology of neural systems affected by AD.

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