Brain metabolic signatures across the Alzheimer’s disease spectrum

Arianna Sala, Camilla Caprioglio, Roberto Santangelo, Emilia Giovanna Vanoli, Sandro Iannaccone, Giuseppe Magnani, Daniela Perani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Given the challenges posed by the clinical diagnosis of atypical Alzheimer’s disease (AD) variants and the limited imaging evidence available in the prodromal phases of atypical AD, we assessed brain hypometabolism patterns at the single-subject level in the AD variants spectrum. Specifically, we tested the accuracy of [18F]FDG-PET brain hypometabolism, as a biomarker of neurodegeneration, in supporting the differential diagnosis of atypical AD variants in individuals with dementia and mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Methods: We retrospectively collected N = 67 patients with a diagnosis of typical AD and AD variants according to the IWG-2 criteria (22 typical-AD, 15 frontal variant-AD, 14 logopenic variant-AD and 16 posterior variant-AD). Further, we included N = 11 MCI subjects, who subsequently received a clinical diagnosis of atypical AD dementia at follow-up (21 ± 11 months). We assessed brain hypometabolism patterns at group- and single-subject level, using W-score maps, measuring their accuracy in supporting differential diagnosis. In addition, the regional prevalence of cerebral hypometabolism was computed to identify the most vulnerable core regions. Results: W-score maps pointed at distinct, specific patterns of hypometabolism in typical and atypical AD variants, confirmed by the assessment of core hypometabolism regions, showing that each variant was characterized by specific regional vulnerabilities, namely in occipital, left-sided, or frontal brain regions. ROC curves allowed discrimination among AD variants and also non-AD dementia (i.e., dementia with Lewy bodies and behavioral variant of frontotemporal dementia), with high sensitivity and specificity. Notably, we provide preliminary evidence that, even in AD prodromal phases, these specific [18F]FDG-PET patterns are already detectable and predictive of clinical progression to atypical AD variants at follow-up. Conclusions: The AD variant-specific patterns of brain hypometabolism, highly consistent at single-subject level and already evident in the prodromal stages, represent relevant markers of disease neurodegeneration, with highly supportive diagnostic and prognostic role.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)256-269
Number of pages14
JournalEuropean Journal of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2020


  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Atypical variants
  • Biomarkers
  • Brain metabolism
  • [F]FDG-PET

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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