Morphological and glucose metabolism abnormalities in alcoholic Korsakoff's syndrome: group comparisons and individual analyses

PLoS One. 2009 Nov 13;4(11):e7748. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0007748.


Background: Gray matter volume studies have been limited to few brain regions of interest, and white matter and glucose metabolism have received limited research attention in Korsakoff's syndrome (KS). Because of the lack of brain biomarkers, KS was found to be underdiagnosed in postmortem studies.

Methodology/principal findings: Nine consecutively selected patients with KS and 22 matched controls underwent both structural magnetic resonance imaging and (18)F-fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography examinations. Using a whole-brain analysis, the between-group comparisons of gray matter and white matter density and relative glucose uptake between patients with KS and controls showed the involvement of both the frontocerebellar and the Papez circuits, including morphological abnormalities in their nodes and connection tracts and probably resulting hypometabolism. The direct comparison of the regional distribution and degree of gray matter hypodensity and hypometabolism within the KS group indicated very consistent gray matter distribution of both abnormalities, with a single area of significant difference in the middle cingulate cortex showing greater hypometabolism than hypodensity. Finally, the analysis of the variability in the individual patterns of brain abnormalities within our sample of KS patients revealed that the middle cingulate cortex was the only brain region showing significant GM hypodensity and hypometabolism in each of our 9 KS patients.

Conclusions/significance: These results indicate widespread brain abnormalities in KS including both gray and white matter damage mainly involving two brain networks, namely, the fronto-cerebellar circuit and the Papez circuit. Furthermore, our findings suggest that the middle cingulate cortex may play a key role in the pathophysiology of KS and could be considered as a potential in vivo brain biomarker.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Alcohol Amnestic Disorder / metabolism*
  • Biomarkers / metabolism*
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Positron-Emission Tomography / methods


  • Biomarkers
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18
  • Glucose