Concept of functional imaging of memory decline in Alzheimer's disease

Methods. 2008 Apr;44(4):304-14. doi: 10.1016/j.ymeth.2007.02.002.


Functional imaging methods such as Positron Emission Tomography (PET) and functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) have contributed inestimably to the understanding of physiological cognitive processes in the brain in the recent decades. These techniques for the first time allowed the in vivo assessment of different features of brain function in the living human subject. It was therefore obvious to apply these methods to evaluate pathomechanisms of cognitive dysfunction in disorders such as Alzheimer's disease (AD) as well. One of the most dominant symptoms of AD is the impairment of memory. In this context, the term "memory" represents a simplification and summarizes a set of complex cognitive functions associated with encoding and retrieval of different types of information. A number of imaging studies assessed the functional changes of neuronal activity in the brain at rest and also during performance of cognitive work, with regard to specific characteristics of memory decline in AD. In the current article, basic principles of common functional imaging procedures will be explained and it will be discussed how they can be reasonably applied for the assessment of memory decline in AD. Furthermore, it will be illustrated how these imaging procedures have been employed to improve early and specific diagnosis of the disease, to understand specific pathomechanisms of memory dysfunction and associated compensatory mechanisms, and to draw reverse conclusions on physiological function of memory.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / complications
  • Alzheimer Disease / physiopathology*
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / chemistry
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / metabolism*
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Brain Chemistry
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Memory Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Memory Disorders / etiology


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides