The fornix and mammillary bodies in older adults with Alzheimer's disease, mild cognitive impairment, and cognitive complaints: a volumetric MRI study

Psychiatry Res. 2006 Oct 30;147(2-3):93-103. doi: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2006.01.015. Epub 2006 Aug 22.


The fornix and mammillary bodies are important limbic structures that have not been systematically investigated in the earliest stages of preclinical dementia. The present study examined volumetric changes in the fornix and mammillary bodies and improved previously established tracing guidelines to increase reliability and provide more comprehensive measurements. Volumetric measurements were made in euthymic older adults, including 16 patients with mild Alzheimer's disease (AD), 20 patients with amnestic mild cognitive impairment (MCI), 20 individuals with cognitive complaints (CC) but normal neuropsychological test performance, and 20 demographically matched healthy controls (HC). Structural magnetic resonance imaging included a T1-weighted 1.5-mm coronal volume, acquired on a GE 1.5T LX scanner. After adjustment for total intracranial volume (ICV), significant volume reductions were observed in the fornix and mammillary bodies in patients with AD as compared with HC, CC, and MCI participants. No volume differences were seen between the HC, CC, and MCI groups. Study findings are consistent with previous research showing volume decreases of the fornix and mammillary bodies in AD, and provide new data on the relative preservation of these structures in preclinical disease stages. Results suggest that atrophy of the fornix and mammillary bodies becomes apparent at the point of conversion from MCI to AD. Longitudinal assessments are needed to delineate the time course and extent of the observed volumetric changes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Alzheimer Disease / epidemiology*
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology*
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Demography
  • Female
  • Fornix, Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Fornix, Brain / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Mammillary Bodies / anatomy & histology*
  • Mammillary Bodies / pathology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Plaque, Amyloid / pathology
  • Severity of Illness Index