In addition to memory deficits, attentional impairment is a common manifestation of Alzheimer's disease (AD). The present study examines the abnormalities of attention-related functional networks in AD using resting functional MRI (fMRI) technique and evaluates the sensitivity and specificity of these networks as potential biomarkers compared with the default mode network (DMN). Group independent component analysis (Group ICA) was applied to fMRI data from 15 AD patients and 16 normal healthy elderly controls (NC) to derive the dorsal attention network (DAN) and the ventral attention network (VAN) which are respectively responsible for the endogenous attention orienting ("top-down") process and the exogenous attention re-orienting ("bottom-up") process. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve analysis was performed for activity in core regions within each of these networks. Functional connectivity analysis revealed disrupted DAN and preserved (less impaired) VAN in AD patients compared with NC, which might indicate impairment of a "top-down" and intact "bottom-up" attentional processing mechanisms in AD. ROC curve analysis suggested that activity in the left intraparietal sulcus and left frontal eye field from DAN as well as the posterior cingulate cortex from the DMN could serve as sensitive and specific biomarkers distinguishing AD from NC.
Copyright © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.