Linking brain imaging and genomics in the study of Alzheimer's disease and aging

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2007 Feb;1097:94-113. doi: 10.1196/annals.1379.011.


My colleagues and I have been using positron emission tomography (PET) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to detect and track the brain changes associated with Alzheimer's disease (AD) and normal brain aging in cognitively normal persons with two copies, one copy, and no copies of the apolipoprotein E (APOE) epsilon4 allele, a common AD susceptibility gene. In this review article, I consider how brain imaging techniques could be used to evaluate putative AD prevention therapies in cognitively normal APOE epsilon4 carriers and putative age-modifying therapies in cognitively normal APOE epsilon4 noncarriers, how they could help investigate the individual and aggregate effects of putative AD risk modifiers, and how they could help guide the investigation of a molecular mechanism associated with AD vulnerability and normal neurological aging. I suggest how high-resolution genome-wide genetic and transcriptomic studies could further help in the scientific understanding of AD, aging, and other common and genetically complex phenotypes, such as variation in normal human memory performance, and in the discovery and evaluation of promising treatments for these phenotypes. Finally, I illustrate the push-pull relationship between brain imaging, genomics research, and other neuroscientific research in the study of AD and aging.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aging / genetics*
  • Aging / pathology*
  • Alzheimer Disease / epidemiology
  • Alzheimer Disease / genetics*
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology*
  • Animals
  • Apolipoproteins E / genetics
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Cognition Disorders / pathology
  • Genomics*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Positron-Emission Tomography
  • Risk Factors


  • Apolipoproteins E