Posterior brain white matter abnormalities in older adults with probable mild cognitive impairment


Objective. Much of the mild cognitive impairment (MCI) neuroimaging literature has exclusively focused on regions associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Little research has examined white matter abnormalities of other brain regions, including those associated with visual processing, despite evidence that other brain abnormalities appear in these regions in early disease stages. Method. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) was utilized to examine participants (n = 44) that completed baseline imaging as part of a longitudinal healthy aging study. Participants were divided into two groups based on scores from the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA), a brief screening tool for MCI. Participants who scored < 26 were defined as “probable MCI” while those who scored ≥ 26 were labled cognitively healthy. Two DTI indices were analyzed including fractional anisotropy (FA) and mean diffusivity (MD). DTI values for white matter in the lingual gyrus, cuneus, pericalcarine, fusiform gyrus and all four lobes were compared using MANOVA. Regression analyses examined the relationship between DTI indices and total MoCA score. Results. Results revealed significantly lower FA in the probable MCI group in the cuneus, fusiform, pericalcarine and occipital lobe, and significantly higher MD in the temporal lobe. Fusiform FA and temporal lobe MD were significantly related to total MoCA score after accounting for age and education. Conclusions. Results indicate that there are posterior white matter microstructural changes in individuals with probable MCI. These differences demonstrate that white matter abnormalities are evident among individuals with probable MCI in regions beyond those commonly associated with Alzheimer’s disease and anterior brain aging patterns.

Journal of clinical and experimental neuropsychology