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Hum Brain Mapp. 2019 Feb 1;40(2):638-651. doi: 10.1002/hbm.24401. Epub 2018 Oct 19.

Data-driven approaches for tau-PET imaging biomarkers in Alzheimer's disease.

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Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Alzheimer Center and Department of Neurology, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam Neuroscience, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Clinical Memory Research Unit, Lund University, Lund, Sweden.
Memory Clinic, Skåne University Hospital, Lund, Sweden.
Department of Neurology, Skåne University Hospital, Lund, Sweden.
Wallenberg Centre for Molecular and Translational Medicine, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden.
Department of Computer Science and Operations Research, Université de Montréal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Centre de Recherche de l'Institut Universitaire de Gériatrie de Montréal, University of Montreal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Department of Psychiatry, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, Netherlands.


Previous positron emission tomography (PET) studies have quantified filamentous tau pathology using regions-of-interest (ROIs) based on observations of the topographical distribution of neurofibrillary tangles in post-mortem tissue. However, such approaches may not take full advantage of information contained in neuroimaging data. The present study employs an unsupervised data-driven method to identify spatial patterns of tau-PET distribution, and to compare these patterns to previously published "pathology-driven" ROIs. Tau-PET patterns were identified from a discovery sample comprised of 123 normal controls and patients with mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer's disease (AD) dementia from the Swedish BioFINDER cohort, who underwent [18 F]AV1451 PET scanning. Associations with cognition were tested in a separate sample of 90 individuals from ADNI. BioFINDER [18 F]AV1451 images were entered into a robust voxelwise stable clustering algorithm, which resulted in five clusters. Mean [18 F]AV1451 uptake in the data-driven clusters, and in 35 previously published pathology-driven ROIs, was extracted from ADNI [18 F]AV1451 scans. We performed linear models comparing [18 F]AV1451 signal across all 40 ROIs to tests of global cognition and episodic memory, adjusting for age, sex, and education. Two data-driven ROIs consistently demonstrated the strongest or near-strongest effect sizes across all cognitive tests. Inputting all regions plus demographics into a feature selection routine resulted in selection of two ROIs (one data-driven, one pathology-driven) and education, which together explained 28% of the variance of a global cognitive composite score. Our findings suggest that [18 F]AV1451-PET data naturally clusters into spatial patterns that are biologically meaningful and that may offer advantages as clinical tools.


AV1451; Alzheimer's disease; cognition; data-driven; tau-PET


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