Purpose: To compare the regional diffusivity of water in the brains of normally aging elderly people and patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or Alzheimer disease.
Materials and methods: Magnetic resonance images were obtained in 21 patients with Alzheimer disease, 19 patients with MCI, and 55 normally aging elderly control subjects without evidence of cognitive impairment. Regions of interest were drawn to compare the apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) and the anisotropy index (AI) in frontal, parietal, temporal, occipital, anterior, and posterior cingulate white matter (WM), and the thalami and hippocampi.
Results: Hippocampal ADC was higher in MCI and Alzheimer disease patients than in control subjects. ADC of the temporal stem and posterior cingulate, occipital, and parietal WM was higher in Alzheimer disease patients than in control subjects. Except for occipital AI, which was lower in MCI patients than in control subjects, there were no differences in AI among the three groups for any of the regions.
Conclusion: Hippocampal ADC was significantly different between control subjects and MCI patients, many of whom likely have preclinical Alzheimer disease. Elevation in hippocampal ADC may reflect early ultrastructural changes in the progression of Alzheimer disease.