Covariance PET Patterns in Early Alzheimer's Disease and Subjects with Cognitive Impairment but No Dementia: Utility in Group Discrimination and Correlations with Functional Performance

Scarmeas, Nikolaos; Habeck, Christian G.; Zarahn, Eric; Anderson, Karen E.; Park, Aileen; Hilton, H. John; Pelton, Gregory; Tabert, Matthias H.; Honig, Lawrence S.; Moeller, James R.; Devanand, Devangere P.; Stern, Yaakov

Although multivariate analytic techniques might identify diagnostic patterns that are not captured by univariate methods, they have rarely been used to study the neural correlates of Alzheimer's disease (AD) or cognitive impairment. Nonquantitative H2(15)O PET scans were acquired during rest in 17 probable AD subjects selected for mild severity [mean-modified Mini Mental Status Examination (mMMS) 46/57; SD 5.1], 16 control subjects (mMMS 54; SD 2.5) and 23 subjects with minimal to mild cognitive impairment but no dementia (mMMS 53; SD 2.8). Expert clinical reading had low success in discriminating AD and controls. There were no significant mean flow differences among groups in traditional univariate SPM Noxel-wise analyses or region of interest (ROI) analyses. A covariance pattern was identified whose mean expression was significantly higher in the AD as compared to controls (P = 0.03; sensitivity 76-94%; specificity 63-81%). Sites of increased concomitant flow included insula, cuneus, pulvinar, lingual, fusiform, superior occipital and parahippocampal gyri, whereas decreased concomitant flow was found in cingulate, inferior parietal lobule, middle and inferior frontal, supramarginal and precentral gyri. The covariance analysis-derived pattern was then prospectively applied to the cognitively impaired subjects: as compared to subjects with Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR) = 0, subjects with CDR = 0.5 had significantly higher mean covariance pattern expression (P = 0.009). Expression of this pattern correlated inversely with Selective Reminding Test total recall (r = -0.401, P = 0.002), delayed recall (r = -0.351, P = 0.008) and mMMS scores (r = -0.401, P = 0.002) in all three groups combined. We conclude that patients with AD may differentially express resting cerebral blood flow covariance patterns even at very early disease stages. Significant alterations in expression of resting flow covariance patterns occur even for subjects with cognitive impairment. Expression of covariance patterns correlates with cognitive and functional performance measures, holding promise for meaningful associations with underlying biopathological processes.


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February 22, 2018