Up till now, the study of regional gray matter atrophy in Alzheimer's disease (AD) has been assessed with regions of interest, but this method is time-consuming, observer dependent, and poorly reproducible (especially in terms of cortical regions boundaries) and in addition is not suited to provide a comprehensive assessment of the brain. In this study, we have mapped gray matter density by means of voxel-based morphometry on T1-weighted MRI volume sets in 19 patients with mild AD and 16 healthy subjects of similar age and gender ratio and report highly significant clusters of gray matter loss with almost symmetrical distribution, affecting mainly and in decreasing order of significance the medial temporal structures, the posterior cingulate gyrus and adjacent precuneus, and the temporoparietal association and perisylvian neocortex, with only little atrophy in the frontal lobe. The findings are discussed in light of previous studies of gray matter atrophy in AD based either on postmortem or neuroimaging data and in relation to PET studies of resting glucose consumption. The limitations of the method are also discussed in some detail, especially with respect to the segmentation and spatial normalization procedures as they apply to pathological brains. Some potential applications of voxel-based morphometry in the study of AD are also mentioned.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.