Alzheimer's disease (AD) is characterized by specific and progressive reductions in fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography (FDG PET) measurements of the cerebral metabolic rate for glucose (CMRgl), some of which may precede the onset of symptoms. In this report, we describe twelve-month CMRgl declines in 69 probable AD patients, 154 amnestic mild cognitive impairment (MCI) patients, and 79 cognitively normal controls (NCs) from the AD Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) using statistical parametric mapping (SPM). We introduce the use of an empirically pre-defined statistical region-of-interest (sROI) to characterize CMRgl declines with optimal power and freedom from multiple comparisons, and we estimate the number of patients needed to characterize AD-slowing treatment effects in multi-center randomized clinical trials (RCTs). The AD and MCI groups each had significant twelve-month CMRgl declines bilaterally in posterior cingulate, medial and lateral parietal, medial and lateral temporal, frontal and occipital cortex, which were significantly greater than those in the NC group and correlated with measures of clinical decline. Using sROIs defined based on training sets of baseline and follow-up images to assess CMRgl declines in independent test sets from each patient group, we estimate the need for 66 AD patients or 217 MCI patients per treatment group to detect a 25% AD-slowing treatment effect in a twelve-month, multi-center RCT with 80% power and two-tailed alpha=0.05, roughly one-tenth the number of the patients needed to study MCI patients using clinical endpoints. Our findings support the use of FDG PET, brain-mapping algorithms and empirically pre-defined sROIs in RCTs of AD-slowing treatments.
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