Date: 23 May 2003

Cerebral metabolic changes accompanying conversion of mild cognitive impairment into Alzheimer's disease: a PET follow-up study

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A high percentage of patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) develop clinical dementia of the Alzheimer type (AD) within 1 year. The aim of this longitudinal study was to identify characteristic patterns of cerebral metabolism at baseline in patients converting from MCI to AD, and to evaluate the changes in these patterns over time. Baseline and follow-up examinations after 1 year were performed in 22 MCI patients (12 males, 10 females, aged 69.8±5.8 years); these examinations included neuropsychological testing, structural cranial magnetic resonance imaging and fluorine-18 fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography (PET) evaluation of relative cerebral glucose metabolic rate (rCMRglc). Individual PET scans were stereotactically normalised with NEUROSTAT software (Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA). Subsequently, statistical comparison of PET data with an age-matched healthy control population and between patient subgroups was performed using SPM 99 (Wellcome Dept. of Neuroimaging Sciences, London, UK). After 1 year, eight patients (36%) had developed probable AD (referred to as MCIAD), whereas 12 (55%) were still classified as having stable MCI (referred to as MCIMCI). Compared with the healthy control group, a reduced rCMRglc in AD-typical regions, including the temporoparietal and posterior cingulate cortex, was detected at baseline in patients with MCIAD. Abnormalities in the posterior cingulate cortex reached significance even in comparison with the MCIMCI group. After 1 year, MCIAD patients demonstrated an additional bilateral reduction of rCMRglc in prefrontal areas, along with a further progression of the abnormalities in the parietal and posterior cingulate cortex. No such changes were observed in the MCIMCI group. In patients with MCI, characteristic cerebral metabolic differences can be delineated at the time of initial presentation, which helps to define prognostic subgroups. A newly emerging reduction of rCMRglc in prefrontal cortical areas is associated with the transition from MCI to AD.