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Impairment of Nonverbal Recognition in Alzheimer Disease: A Pet O-15 Study

Anderson, Karen E.; Brickman, Adam M.; Flynn, Joseph; Scarmeas, Nikolaos; Van Heertum, Ronald L.; Sackeim, Harold A.; Marder, Karen; Bell, Karen L.; Moeller, James R.; Stern, Yaakov

OBJECTIVE: To characterize deficits in nonverbal recognition memory and functional brain changes associated with these deficits in Alzheimer disease (AD). METHODS: Using O-15 PET, we studied 11 patients with AD and 17 cognitively intact elders during the combined encoding and retrieval periods of a nonverbal recognition task. Both task conditions involved recognition of line drawings of abstract shapes. In both conditions, subjects were first presented a list of shapes as study items, and then a list as test items, containing items from the study list and foils. In the titrated demand condition, the shape study list size (SLS) was adjusted prior to imaging so that each subject performed at approximately 75% recognition accuracy; difficulty during PET scanning in this condition was approximately matched across subjects. A control task was used in which SLS = 1 shape. RESULTS: During performance of the titrated demand condition, SLS averaged 4.55 (+/-1.86) shapes for patients with AD and 7.53 (+/-4.81) for healthy elderly subjects (p = 0.031). However, both groups of subjects were closely matched on performance in the titrated demand condition during PET scanning with 72.17% (+/-7.98%) correct for patients with AD and 72.25% (+/-7.03%) for elders (p = 0.979). PET results demonstrated that patients with AD showed greater mean differences between the titrated demand condition and control in areas including the left fusiform and inferior frontal regions (Brodmann areas 19 and 45). CONCLUSIONS: Relative fusiform and inferior frontal differences may reflect the Alzheimer disease (AD) patients' compensatory engagement of alternate brain regions. The strategy used by patients with AD is likely to be a general mechanism of compensation, rather than task-specific.


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February 23, 2018