Functional Connectivity of Ventral and Dorsal Visual Streams in Posterior Cortical Atrophy

J Alzheimers Dis. 2016;51(4):1119-30. doi: 10.3233/JAD-150934.


Background: Posterior cortical atrophy (PCA) induces progressive dysfunction of ventral and dorsal visual networks. Little is known, however, about corresponding changes in functional connectivity (FC).

Objectives: To investigate FC changes in the visual networks, their relationship with cortical atrophy, and the association with Alzheimer's disease (AD) pathology.

Methods: Ten PCA patients and 28 age-matched controls participated in the study. Using resting state fMRI, we measured FC in ventral and dorsal cortical visual networks, defined on the basis of a priori knowledge of long-range white matter connections. To assess the relationships with AD, we determined AD biomarkers in cerebrospinal fluid and FC in the default mode network (DMN), which is vulnerable to AD pathology. Voxel-based morphometry analysis assessed the pattern of grey matter (GM) atrophy.

Results: PCA patients showed GM atrophy in bilateral occipital and inferior parietal regions. PCA patients had lower FC levels in a ventral network than controls, but higher FC in inferior components of the dorsal network. In particular, the increased connectivity correlated with greater GM atrophy in occipital regions. All PCA patients had positive cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers for AD; however, FC in global DMN did not differ from controls.

Conclusions: FC in PCA reflects brain structure in a non-univocal way. Hyperconnectivity of dorsal networks may indicate aberrant communication in response to posterior brain atrophy or processes of neural resilience during the initial stage of brain dysfunction. The lack of difference from controls in global DMN FC highlights the atypical nature of PCA with respect to typical AD.

Keywords: Brain resilience; dorsal stream; functional connectivity; posterior cortical atrophy; ventral stream.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Alzheimer Disease / complications
  • Alzheimer Disease / diagnostic imaging
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology*
  • Atrophy
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cerebral Cortex / diagnostic imaging
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Mental Status Schedule
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Visual Pathways / blood supply
  • Visual Pathways / diagnostic imaging
  • Visual Pathways / physiopathology*


  • Oxygen