Brain damage in Alzheimer's disease (AD) and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is widespread with involvement of large portions of the neocortex and the subcortical white matter. A quantitative measure of neuronal damage of the entire brain might be valuable in the context of large-scale, longitudinal studies of these patients. This study investigated the extent of neuroaxonal injury of patients with AD and MCI using a novel unlocalized proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS) technique, which allows quantification of the concentration of N-acetylaspartate from the whole of the brain tissue (WBNAA). Conventional brain MRI and WBNAA were obtained from 28 AD patients, 27 MCI patients and 25 age-matched controls. Normalized brain volume (NBV) was also measured using an automated segmentation technique. WBNAA and NBV showed a significant heterogeneity between groups (P <0.001). WBNAA concentration was different between controls and MCI patients (P = 0.003), but not between MCI and AD patients (P = 0.33). NBV differed both between controls and MCI patients (P = 0.02) and between MCI and AD patients (P = 0.03). A multivariate regression model retained WBNAA as the best MRI predictor of the Mini Mental State Examination score (P = 0.001). Significant neuronal damage, which is related to the extent of cognitive decline, can be quantified in the whole brain tissue of patients with AD, using a novel 1H-MRS approach. The demonstration in patients with MCI of MR structural and metabolic findings, intermediate between those of healthy volunteers and those of AD patients, indicates that neuronal damage is already evident and widespread in individuals with MCI before they are clinically demented.
- Alzheimer's disease (AD)
- Mild cognitive impairment (MCI)
- Whole brain magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS)
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cognitive Neuroscience