Research Papers:

White matter degeneration in subjective cognitive decline: a diffusion tensor imaging study

Xuan-yu Li, Zhen-chao Tang, Yu Sun, Jie Tian, Zhen-yu Liu and Ying Han _

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Oncotarget. 2016; 7:54405-54414. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.10091

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Xuan-yu Li1,*, Zhen-chao Tang3,*, Yu Sun1, Jie Tian2, Zhen-yu Liu2, Ying Han1,4

1Department of Neurology, XuanWu Hospital of Capital Medical University, Beijing, 100053, China

2Key Laboratory of Molecular Imaging, Institute of Automation, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, 100190, China

3School of Mechanical, Electrical & Information Engineering, Shandong University, Weihai, Shandong Province, 264209, China

4Center of Alzheimer’s Disease, Beijing Institute for Brain Disorders, Beijing, 100053, China

*These authors contributed equally to this work and should be considered co-first authors

Correspondence to:

Ying Han, email: 13621011941@163.com

Zhen-yu Liu, email: zhenyu.liu@ia.ac.cn

Keywords: subjective cognitive decline, diffusion tensor imaging, preclinical Alzheimer’s disease, white matter, tract-based spatial statistics

Received: November 09, 2015    Accepted: May 17, 2016    Published: June 15, 2016


Subjective cognitive decline (SCD) may be an at-risk stage of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) occurring prior to amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI). To examine white matter (WM) defects in SCD, diffusion images from 27 SCD (age=65.3±8.0), 35 aMCI (age=69.2±8.6) and 25 AD patients (age=68.3±9.4) and 37 normal controls (NC) (age=65.1±6.8) were compared using Tract-Based Spatial Statistics (TBSS). WM impairments common to the three patient groups were extracted, and fractional anisotropy (FA) values were averaged in each group. As compared to NC subjects, SCD patients displayed widespread WM alterations represented by decreased FA (p<0.05), increased mean diffusivity (MD; p<0.05), and increased radial diffusivity (RD; p<0.05). In addition, localized WM alterations showed increased axial diffusivity (AxD; p<0.05) similar to what was observed in aMCI and AD patients (p<0.05). In the shared WM impairment tracts, SCD patients had FA values between the NC group and the other two patient groups. In the NC and SCD groups, the AVLT-delayed recall score correlated with higher AxD (r=-0.333, p=0.045), MD (r=-0.351, p=0.03) and RD (r=-0.353, p=0.025). In both the aMCI and AD groups the diffusion parameters were highly correlated with cognitive scores. Our study suggests that SCD patients present with widespread WM changes, which may contribute to the early memory decline they experience.

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