Basal forebrain atrophy correlates with amyloid β burden in Alzheimer's disease.Neuroimage Clin 2015; 7:105-13NC
The brains of patients suffering from Alzheimer's disease (AD) have three classical pathological hallmarks: amyloid-beta (Aβ) plaques, tau tangles, and neurodegeneration, including that of cholinergic neurons of the basal forebrain. However the relationship between Aβ burden and basal forebrain degeneration has not been extensively studied. To investigate this association, basal forebrain volumes were determined from magnetic resonance images of controls, subjects with amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI) and AD patients enrolled in the longitudinal Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) and Australian Imaging, Biomarkers and Lifestyle (AIBL) studies. In the AIBL cohort, these volumes were correlated within groups to neocortical gray matter retention of Pittsburgh compound B (PiB) from positron emission tomography images as a measure of Aβ load. The basal forebrain volumes of AD and aMCI subjects were significantly reduced compared to those of control subjects. Anterior basal forebrain volume was significantly correlated to neocortical PiB retention in AD subjects and aMCI subjects with high Aβ burden, whereas posterior basal forebrain volume was significantly correlated to neocortical PiB retention in control subjects with high Aβ burden. Therefore this study provides new evidence for a correlation between neocortical Aβ accumulation and basal forebrain degeneration. In addition, cluster analysis showed that subjects with a whole basal forebrain volume below a determined cut-off value had a 7 times higher risk of having a worse diagnosis within ~18 months.