The relationship between fMRI activation and cerebral atrophy: comparison of normal aging and alzheimer disease

Neuroimage. 2000 Mar;11(3):179-87. doi: 10.1006/nimg.1999.0530.


Functional MRI has recently been used to examine activation associated with aging and dementia, yet little is known regarding the effect of cerebral atrophy on fMRI signal. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between measures of global and regionally specific atrophy and fMRI activation in normal aging and in Alzheimer disease (AD). Two groups of subjects were studied with echoplanar imaging and quantitative structural volumetry: healthy controls spanning a broad age and atrophy range (n = 16) and patients with mild AD (n = 8). Results from a semantic task previously found to activate left inferior frontal (LIFG) and left superior temporal (LSTG) gyri were analyzed. The correlations between clusters of activation in the LIFG and LSTG and measures of local atrophy in the LIFG and LSTG regions were evaluated. For control subjects, there was no significant correlation between activation and regional or total brain atrophy (for LIFG r = -0.03, NS; for LSTG r = 0.20, NS). In contrast, for AD patients, there was a significant positive correlation between atrophy and activation in LIFG (r = 0.70, P = 0.05) but not LSTG (r = 0.00, NS). These results suggest that activation of language regions and atrophy within those regions may be independent among healthy adults spanning a broad age and atrophy range. However, in AD, a relationship exists in the LIFG that may reflect compensatory recruitment of cortical units or disease-specific changes in the hemodynamic response.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology*
  • Atrophy
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Reference Values
  • Regression Analysis