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J Alzheimers Dis. 2011;24(3):455-74. doi: 10.3233/JAD-2011-101854.

Structural and functional network connectivity breakdown in Alzheimer’s disease studied with magnetic resonance imaging techniques.

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Neuroimaging Research Unit, Institute of Experimental Neurology, Division of Neuroscience, Scientific Institute and University Ospedale San Raffaele, Milan, Italy.


Patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) experience a brain network breakdown, reflecting disconnection at both the structural and functional system level. Resting-state (RS) functional MRI (fMRI) studies demonstrated that the regional coherence of the fMRI signal is significantly altered in patients with AD and amnestic mild cognitive impairment. Diffusion tensor (DT) MRI has made it possible to track fiber bundle projections across the brain, revealing a substantially abnormal interplay of “critical” white matter tracts in these conditions. The observed agreement between the results of RS fMRI and DT MRI tractography studies in healthy individuals is encouraging and offers interesting hypotheses to be tested in patients with AD, a MCI, and other dementias in order to improve our understanding of their pathobiology in vivo. In this review,we describe the major findings obtained in AD using RS fMRI and DT MRI tractography, and discuss how the relationship between structure and function of the brain networks in AD may be better understood through the application of MR-based technology. This research endeavor holds a great promise in clarifying the mechanisms of cognitive decline in complex chronic neurodegenerative disorders.

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