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Front Neurosci. 2019 Nov 15;13:1228. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2019.01228. eCollection 2019.

Amyloid Load, Hippocampal Volume Loss, and Diffusion Tensor Imaging Changes in Early Phases of Brain Aging.

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CIRD Centre d'Imagerie Rive Droite, Geneva, Switzerland.
Department of Surgical Sciences, Radiology, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden.
Faculty of Medicine, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland.
Department of Rehabilitation and Geriatrics, Geneva University Hospitals, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland.
Department of Psychiatry, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland.
Division of Institutional Measures, Medical Direction, Geneva University Hospitals, Geneva, Switzerland.
Division of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging, Department of Diagnostic, Geneva University Hospitals, Geneva, Switzerland.
Hermes Medical Solutions, Stockholm, Sweden.


Background and Purpose:

Amyloid imaging, gray matter (GM) morphometry and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) have all been used as predictive biomarkers in dementia. Our objective was to define the imaging profile of healthy elderly controls as a function of their cognitive trajectories and explore whether amyloid burden and white matter (WM) microstructure changes are associated with subtle decrement of neuropsychological performances in old age.

Materials and Methods:

We performed a 4.5-year longitudinal study in 133 elderly individuals who underwent cognitive testing at inclusion and follow-up, amyloid PET, MRI including DTI sequences at inclusion, and APOE epsilon 4 genotyping. All cases were assessed using a continuous cognitive score (CCS) taking into account the global evolution of neuropsychological performances. Data processing included region of interest analysis of amyloid PET analysis, GM densities and tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS)-DTI. Regression models were built to explore the association between the CCS and imaging parameters controlling for significant demographic and clinical covariates.


Amyloid uptake was not related to the cognitive outcome. In contrast, GM densities in bilateral hippocampus were associated with worst CCS at follow-up. In addition, radial and axial diffusivities in left hippocampus were negatively associated with CCS. Amyloid load was associated with decreased VBM and increased radial and axial diffusivity in the same area. These associations persisted when adjusting for gender and APOE4 genotype. Importantly, they were absent in amygdala and neocortical areas studied.


The progressive decrement of neuropsychological performances in normal aging is associated with volume loss and WM microstructure changes in hippocampus long before the emergence of clinically overt symptoms. Higher amyloid load in hippocampus is compatible with cognitive preservation in cases with better preservation of GM densities and WM microstructure in this area.


APOE genotyping; amyloid deposition; magnetic resonance imaging; normal aging; positron emission tomography

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