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Hum Brain Mapp. 2011 Dec;32(12):2027-44. doi: 10.1002/hbm.21166. Epub 2011 Jan 21.

Reliability of functional magnetic resonance imaging associative encoding memory paradigms in non-demented elderly adults.

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Center for Alzheimer Research and Treatment, Department of Neurology, Brigham & Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) holds significant potential to aid in the development of early interventions to improve memory function, and to assess longitudinal change in memory systems in aging and early Alzheimer's disease (AD). However, the test-retest reliability of hippocampal activation and of "beneficial" deactivation in the precuneus has yet to be fully established during memory encoding tasks in older subjects. Using a mixed block and event-related face-name associative encoding paradigm, we assessed the reliability of hippocampal activation and default network deactivation over a 4- to 6-week interscan interval in 27 older individuals who were cognitively normal [Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR) Scale = 0; n = 18] or mildly impaired (CDR = 0.5; n = 9). Reliability was assessed in whole brain maps and regions of interest using both a full-task paradigm of six functional runs as well as an abbreviated paradigm of the first two functional runs, which would be advantageous for use in clinical trials. We found reliable hippocampal signal response across both block- and event-related designs in the right hippocampus. Comparable reliability in hippocampal activation was found in the full and the abbreviated paradigm. Similar reliability in hippocampal activation was observed across both CDR groups overall, but the CDR 0.5 group was more variable in left hippocampal activity. Task-related deactivation in the precuneus demonstrated much greater variability than hippocampal activation in all analyses. Overall, these results are encouraging for the utility of fMRI in "Proof of Concept" clinical trials investigating the efficacy of potentially therapeutic agents for treatment of age-related memory changes, cognitive impairment, and early AD.

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