In the present study, as part of a more extensive longitudinal investigation of the in vivo anatomical markers of early and incipient AD in our laboratory, three groups of elderly participants were followed with yearly clinical evaluations and high resolution MRI scans over a 6-year period (baseline and 5 years of follow-up). At baseline, participants consisted of: (1) 35 old subjects with no cognitive impairment (controls); (2) 33 participants with amnestic mild cognitive impairment (MCI); and (3) 14 patients with very mild AD. 11 participants with amnestic MCI received a diagnosis of AD over the follow-up period and 9 controls declined in cognitive function. T1 weighted MRI scans were acquired using a 3D SPGR pulse sequence. At baseline, both the amnestic MCI and mild AD groups differed from the controls in hippocampal and entorhinal cortex volume, but not from each other. Longitudinal analyses showed that the rate of atrophy of the entorhinal cortex and hippocampus for the stable controls differed significantly from MCI participants who converted to AD and the AD groups. Furthermore, longitudinal decreases in hippocampal and entorhinal volume were related to longitudinal decline in declarative memory performance. These findings suggest that the rate of atrophy of mesial temporal lobe structures can differentiate healthy from pathological aging.
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