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Neuroimage. 2010 Jan 1;49(1):141-9. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2009.07.050. Epub 2009 Jul 28.

Callosal atrophy in mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease: different effects in different stages.

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  • 1IRCCS Santa Lucia Foundation, Via Ardeatina 306, Rome, Italy.


Alzheimer's Disease (AD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that mainly affects grey matter (GM). Nevertheless, a number of investigations have documented white matter (WM) pathology associated with AD. The corpus callosum (CC) is the largest WM fiber bundle in the human brain. It has been shown to be susceptible to atrophy in AD mainly as a correlate of Wallerian degeneration of commissural nerve fibers of the neocortex. The aim of this study was to investigate which callosal regions are affected and whether callosal degeneration is associated with the stage of the disease. For this purpose, we analyzed high-resolution MRI data of patients with amnesic mild cognitive impairment (MCI) (n=20), mild AD (n=20), severe AD (n=10), and of healthy controls (n=20). Callosal morphology was investigated applying two different structural techniques: mesh-based geometrical modeling methods and whole-brain voxel-based analyses. Our findings indicate significant reductions in severe AD patients compared to healthy controls in anterior (genu and anterior body) and posterior (splenium) sections. In contrast, differences between healthy controls and mild AD patients or amnesic MCI patients were less pronounced and did not survive corrections for multiple comparisons. When correlating anterior and posterior WM density of the CC with GM density of the cortex in the severe AD group, we detected significant positive relationships between posterior sections of the CC and the cortex. We conclude that callosal atrophy is present predominantly in the latest stage of AD, where two mechanisms might contribute to WM alterations in severe AD: the Wallerian degeneration in posterior subregions and the myelin breakdown process in anterior subregions.

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