Hippocampal Measures Predict Alzheimer's Progression

Whole brain atrophy rate distinguishes Alzheimer's disease from mild cognitive impairment

THURSDAY, March 19 (HealthDay News) -- Although the rate of hippocampal atrophy may better distinguish individuals with mild cognitive impairment from controls, measures of whole brain volume may better discriminate Alzheimer's disease from mild cognitive impairment, according to research published in the March 17 issue of Neurology.

W.J.P. Henneman, M.D., of the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and colleagues analyzed MRI data from 64 patients with Alzheimer's disease, 44 with mild cognitive impairment and 34 controls. Patients underwent two scans, roughly 1.8 years apart. At the follow-up, 23 with mild cognitive impairment and three controls had developed Alzheimer's disease.

The effect sizes of baseline hippocampal volume and hippocampal atrophy rate were higher than the effect sizes for baseline whole brain volume or whole brain atrophy rate when comparing controls and individuals with mild cognitive impairment, the investigators found. However, only the whole brain atrophy rate differed significantly between the mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's groups, the researchers report.

"Whereas hippocampal measurements are more sensitive markers early in the disease, we observe a shift toward an advantage of the use of whole brain volume measurements at a later stage. Moreover, we show that both hippocampal baseline volume and atrophy rate can be used to distinguish controls from patients with mild cognitive impairment and predict progression, whereas of the whole brain measurements, only atrophy rate is able to do this. This finding seems to reflect that at the stage of mild cognitive impairment, considerable hippocampal atrophy has already taken place," the authors write.

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