Amyloid imaging in cognitively normal individuals, at-risk populations and preclinical Alzheimer's disease

Neuroimage Clin. 2013 Mar 5;2:356-65. doi: 10.1016/j.nicl.2013.02.006. eCollection 2013.


Recent developments of PET amyloid ligands have made it possible to visualize the presence of Aβ deposition in the brain of living participants and to assess the consequences especially in individuals with no objective sign of cognitive deficits. The present review will focus on amyloid imaging in cognitively normal elderly, asymptomatic at-risk populations, and individuals with subjective cognitive decline. It will cover the prevalence of amyloid-positive cases amongst cognitively normal elderly, the influence of risk factors for AD, the relationships to cognition, atrophy and prognosis, longitudinal amyloid imaging and ethical aspects related to amyloid imaging in cognitively normal individuals. Almost ten years of research have led to a few consensual and relatively consistent findings: some cognitively normal elderly have Aβ deposition in their brain, the prevalence of amyloid-positive cases increases in at-risk populations, the prognosis for these individuals is worse than for those with no Aβ deposition, and significant increase in Aβ deposition over time is detectable in cognitively normal elderly. More inconsistent findings are still under debate; these include the relationship between Aβ deposition and cognition and brain volume, the sequence and cause-to-effect relations between the different AD biomarkers, and the individual outcome associated with an amyloid positive versus negative scan. Preclinical amyloid imaging also raises important ethical issues. While amyloid imaging is definitely useful to understand the role of Aβ in early stages, to define at-risk populations for research or for clinical trial, and to assess the effects of anti-amyloid treatments, we are not ready yet to translate research results into clinical practice and policy. More researches are needed to determine which information to disclose from an individual amyloid imaging scan, the way of disclosing such information and the impact on individuals and on society.

Keywords: Amyloid PET imaging; ApoE4; Cognitively normal elderly; Longitudinal studies; Preclinical Alzheimer's disease; Subjective cognitive decline.

Publication types

  • Review