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Neurology. 1998 Jan;50(1):145-51.

Sulcal variability in the Alzheimer's brain: correlations with cognition.

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Department of Neurology, Alzheimer's Disease Center, UCLA School of Medicine, Los Angeles, CA 90024-1769, USA.


We mapped the three dimensional (3D) extents and variability of selected sulci in the Alzheimer's brain and explored the relationship between sulcal pattern and patient's cognitive performance. High-resolution MRIs of 10 patients with probable Alzheimer's disease (AD) were linearly transformed into a standard "normalized" 3D atlas (known as the Talairach coordinate system) and, on each relevant slice, contours of the left and right Sylvian fissure, anterior and posterior calcarine, callosal, parietooccipital, and cingulate sulci and the floor of the temporal horn of the lateral ventricle were traced. These landmarks were chosen because of their relative invariant location across individuals and because they demarcate functional boundaries relevant in AD. The sulcal contours were resolved into two-dimensional surfaces that cut through a brain volume. All 10 patients' sulcal surfaces were averaged to determine their mean spatial locations in the Talairach coordinate system. The 3D spatial extents of each patient's sulci were compared with their disease severity based on neuropsychological performance. The 3D sulcal variability, within the "normalized" atlas space, ranged from 4.0 mm for the left callosal sulcus to 9.1 mm for the left Sylvian fissure. Significant correlations were found among the spatial extents for the posterior floor of the right temporal horn of the lateral ventricle (r = -0.89, p < 0.001 for vertical extent) and right anterior calcarine sulcus (r = -0.75, p < 0.01 for anterior-posterior extent) with copying ability of the Rey-Osterrieth Complex Figure; the right anterior calcarine also had a significant relationship (r = -0.72, p = 0.02 for anterior-posterior extent) with performance on the Block Design subtest from the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Revised. Verbal fluency performance measured by the Controlled Oral Word Association Test was significantly related to the left cingulate (r = 0.91, p < 0.001 for anterior-posterior extent, and r = -0.82, p < 0.01 for vertical extent) and right cingulate (r = -0.72, p < or = 0.02 for vertical extent) sulci. This exploratory study is the first to evaluate the relationship between 3D sulcal variability and cognition; our preliminary findings suggest that the 3D pattern of sulci in the AD brain is related to the severity of the disease as reflected by cognitive performance. In the Talairach brain atlas, sulcal variability, within an AD population, approaches 1 cm. This large variability requires correction when functional imaging data are transformed into the Talairach atlas space to "normalize" individual morphologic differences.

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