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Metab Brain Dis. 2015 Oct;30(5):1295-308. doi: 10.1007/s11011-015-9708-7. Epub 2015 Jul 4.

Disruption of thalamic connectivity in Alzheimer's disease: a diffusion tensor imaging study.

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Department of Neurology, The First Affiliated Hospital of China Medical University, 155 Nanjing North Street, Shenyang, 110001, Liaoning, People's Republic of China.


The aim of this study was to evaluate the structural integrity of the thalamic connectivity of specific fiber tracts in different stages of Alzheimer's disease (AD) using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). Thirty-five patients with AD and 22 normal control (NC) subjects were recruited. Based on Mini Mental State Examination score, the AD patients were divided into three subgroups for comparison with the NC group: mild (mi-AD, n = 14), moderate (mo-AD, n = 12), and severe (se-AD, n = 9) AD. The fornix (FX), anterior thalamic radiation (ATR), and posterior thalamic radiation (PTR) were selected to represent the thalamic connectivity with other brain regions. The fornix was divided into the column and body of the fornix (FX-1) and the bilateral fornix (crus)/stria terminalis (FX-2/ST) based on the atlas. Through the atlas-based analysis and fiber tracking method, we measured fractional anisotropy (FA), mean diffusivity (MD), and tract volume to reflect the microstructural and macrostructural changes of these fibers during AD progression. There were significant differences in the FA and MD of all fibers, except the right PTR, between the AD and NC subjects. Further subgroup analyses revealed that the mi-AD subgroup had decreased FA only in the FX-1 and increased MD in the FX-1 and bilateral ATR, the mo-AD subgroup showed declined FA and increased MD in the FX-1, bilateral FX-2/ST and ATR; the se-AD subgroup exhibited lower FA and higher MD values in all fibers except the right PTR. We also found reduced tract volume values in the FX and left ATR in the AD patients. Further subgroup analyses revealed that these differences only existed in the se-AD patients. Our DTI analyses indicate that the integrity of thalamic connectivity is progressively disrupted following cognitive decline in AD and that DTI parameters in the column and body of the fornix show promise as potential markers for the early diagnosis of AD and for monitoring disease progression.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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