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JAMA Neurol. 2018 Mar 1;75(3):342-352. doi: 10.1001/jamaneurol.2017.4309.

Rates of Amyloid Imaging Positivity in Patients With Primary Progressive Aphasia.

Author information

Department of Neurology, Memory and Aging Center, University of California San Francisco.
Autonomous University of Barcelona, Cerdanyola del Valles, Spain.
Cognition and Brain Plasticity Group, Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute, L'Hospitalet de Llobregat, Barcelona, Spain.
Fundació Alzheimer Memory Clinic and Research Center, Institut Catalá de Neurociències Aplicades, Barcelona, Spain.
Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley.
Vita-Salute San Raffaele University, Milan, Italy.
Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of California San Francisco.
Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, University of Texas, Austin.
University of Colorado Denver, Denver.
Life Sciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, California.
Department of Neurology, Eulji University Hospital, Daejeon, South Korea.
Department of Pathology, University of California San Francisco, California.



The ability to predict the pathology underlying different neurodegenerative syndromes is of critical importance owing to the advent of molecule-specific therapies.


To determine the rates of positron emission tomography (PET) amyloid positivity in the main clinical variants of primary progressive aphasia (PPA).

Design, Setting, and Participants:

This prospective clinical-pathologic case series was conducted at a tertiary research clinic specialized in cognitive disorders. Patients were evaluated as part of a prospective, longitudinal research study between January 2002 and December 2015. Inclusion criteria included clinical diagnosis of PPA; availability of complete speech, language, and cognitive testing; magnetic resonance imaging performed within 6 months of the cognitive evaluation; and PET carbon 11-labeled Pittsburgh Compound-B or florbetapir F 18 brain scan results. Of 109 patients referred for evaluation of language symptoms who underwent amyloid brain imaging, 3 were excluded because of incomplete language evaluations, 5 for absence of significant aphasia, and 12 for presenting with significant initial symptoms outside of the language domain, leaving a cohort of 89 patients with PPA.

Main Outcomes and Measures:

Clinical, cognitive, neuroimaging, and pathology results.


Twenty-eight cases were classified as imaging-supported semantic variant PPA (11 women [39.3%]; mean [SD] age, 64 [7] years), 31 nonfluent/agrammatic variant PPA (22 women [71.0%]; mean [SD] age, 68 [7] years), 26 logopenic variant PPA (17 women [65.4%]; mean [SD] age, 63 [8] years), and 4 mixed PPA cases. Twenty-four of 28 patients with semantic variant PPA (86%) and 28 of 31 patients with nonfluent/agrammatic variant PPA (90%) had negative amyloid PET scan results, while 25 of 26 patients with logopenic variant PPA (96%) and 3 of 4 mixed PPA cases (75%) had positive scan results. The amyloid positive semantic variant PPA and nonfluent/agrammatic variant PPA cases with available autopsy data (2 of 4 and 2 of 3, respectively) all had a primary frontotemporal lobar degeneration and secondary Alzheimer disease pathologic diagnoses, whereas autopsy of 2 patients with amyloid PET-positive logopenic variant PPA confirmed Alzheimer disease. One mixed PPA patient with a negative amyloid PET scan had Pick disease at autopsy.

Conclusions and Relevance:

Primary progressive aphasia variant diagnosis according to the current classification scheme is associated with Alzheimer disease biomarker status, with the logopenic variant being associated with carbon 11-labeled Pittsburgh Compound-B positivity in more than 95% of cases. Furthermore, in the presence of a clinical syndrome highly predictive of frontotemporal lobar degeneration pathology, biomarker positivity for Alzheimer disease may be associated more with mixed pathology rather than primary Alzheimer disease.

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