Cerebral blood flow measured by arterial spin labeling MRI as a preclinical marker of Alzheimer's disease

J Alzheimers Dis. 2014;42 Suppl 4(Suppl 4):S411-9. doi: 10.3233/JAD-141467.


There is growing recognition that cerebral hypoperfusion is related to the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease (AD), implicating the measurement of cerebral blood flow (CBF) as a possible biomarker of AD. The ability to identify the earliest and most reliable markers of incipient cognitive decline and clinical symptoms is critical to develop effective preventive strategies and interventions for AD. Arterial spin labeling (ASL) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) measures CBF by magnetically labeling arterial water and using it as an endogenous tracer. Studies using ASL MRI in humans indicate that CBF changes are present several years before the development of the clinical symptoms of AD. Moreover, ASL-measured CBF has been shown to distinguish between cognitively normal individuals, adults at risk for AD, and persons diagnosed with AD. Some studies indicate that CBF may even be sensitive for predicting cognitive decline and conversion to mild cognitive impairment and AD over time. Taken together, evidence suggests that the current staging models of AD biomarker pathology should incorporate early changes in CBF as a useful biomarker, possibly present even earlier than amyloid-β accumulation. Though still a research tool, ASL imaging is a promising non-invasive and reliable method with the potential to serve as a future clinical tool for the measurement of CBF in preclinical AD.

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; arterial spin labeling; cerebral blood flow; cerebrovascular disorders; cognition; mild cognitive impairment; neuroimaging; neurovascular dysfunction; perfusion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / diagnosis*
  • Alzheimer Disease / physiopathology*
  • Blood Flow Velocity / physiology
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation / physiology*
  • Electron Spin Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Humans
  • Spin Labels


  • Spin Labels