Detecting biological heterogeneity patterns in ADNI amnestic mild cognitive impairment based on volumetric MRI

  • Ali EzzatiEmail author
  • Andrea R. Zammit
  • Christian Habeck
  • Charles B. Hall
  • Richard B. Lipton
  • for the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative


There is substantial biological heterogeneity among older adults with amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI). We hypothesized that this heterogeneity can be detected solely based on volumetric MRI measures, which potentially have clinical implications and can improve our ability to predict clinical outcomes. We used latent class analysis (LCA) to identify subgroups among persons with aMCI (n = 696) enrolled in the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), based on baseline volumetric MRI measures. We used volumetric measures of 10 different brain regions. The subgroups were validated with respect to demographics, cognitive performance, and other AD biomarkers. The subgroups were compared with each other and with normal and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) groups with respect to baseline cognitive function and longitudinal rate of conversion. Four aMCI subgroups emerged with distinct MRI patterns: The first subgroup (n = 404), most similar to normal controls in volumetric characteristics and cognitive function, had the lowest incidence of AD. The second subgroup (n = 230) had the most similar MRI profile to early AD, along with poor performance in memory and executive function domains. The third subgroup (n = 36) had the highest global atrophy, very small hippocampus and worst overall cognitive performance. The fourth subgroup (n = 26) had the least amount of atrophy, however still had poor cognitive function specifically in in the executive function domain. Individuals with aMCI who were clinically categorized within one group other showed substantial heterogeneity based on MRI volumetric measures.


Latent class analysis Volumetric MRI Cognitive function Amnestic MCI Alzheimer’s disease 



Data used in preparation of this article were obtained from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) database ( As such, the investigators within the ADNI contributed to the design and implementation of ADNI and/or provided data but did not participate in analysis or writing of this report. A complete listing of ADNI investigators can be found at


Data collection and sharing for ADNI project was funded by the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) (National Institutes of Health Grant U01 AG024904) and DOD ADNI (Department of Defense award number W81XWH-12-2-0012). ADNI is funded by the National Institute on Aging, the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, and through generous contributions from the following: AbbVie, Alzheimer’s Association; Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation; Araclon Biotech; BioClinica, Inc.; Biogen; Bristol-Myers Squibb Company; CereSpir, Inc.; Cogstate; Eisai Inc.; Elan Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Eli Lilly and Company; EuroImmun; F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd. and its affiliated company Genentech, Inc.; Fujirebio; GE Healthcare; IXICO Ltd.; Janssen Alzheimer Immunotherapy Research & Development, LLC.; Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research & Development LLC.; Lumosity; Lundbeck; Merck & Co., Inc.; Meso Scale Diagnostics, LLC.; NeuroRx Research; Neurotrack Technologies; Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation; Pfizer Inc.; Piramal Imaging; Servier; Takeda Pharmaceutical Company; and Transition Therapeutics. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research is providing funds to support ADNI clinical sites in Canada. Private sector contributions are facilitated by the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health ( The grantee organization is the Northern California Institute for Research and Education, and the study is coordinated by the Alzheimer’s Therapeutic Research Institute at the University of Southern California. ADNI data are disseminated by the Laboratory for Neuro Imaging at the University of Southern California.

Authors of this study were supported in part by National Institutes of Health grants NIA 2 P01 AG03949, NIA 1R01AG039409–01, NIA R03 AG045474, NIH K01AG054700, the Leonard and Sylvia Marx Foundation, and the Czap Foundation.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

None reported.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of NeurologyAlbert Einstein College of MedicineBronxUSA
  2. 2.Department of NeurologyMontefiore Medical CenterBronxUSA
  3. 3.Cognitive Neuroscience Division, Department of NeurologyColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA
  4. 4.Department of Epidemiology and Population HealthAlbert Einstein College of MedicineBronxUSA

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