Background/objectives: Alzheimer's disease (AD) and semantic dementia (SD) have distinct episodic memory profiles despite the hippocampal atrophy that characterizes both diseases. The aim of this study was to delineate the pattern of gray matter (GM) atrophy associated with AD and SD as well as any differences in these patterns by pooling together the results of previous voxel-based morphometry (VBM) studies.Methods/Overview: We conducted a meta-analysis of VBM studies that investigated GM atrophy in AD patients versus controls (CTRLs) and in SD patients versus CTRLs using the activation likelihood estimation (ALE) approach. Our systematic review allowed us to identify 63 VBM studies.
Results: The results confirmed that in addition to the classical cortical pattern of atrophy involving posterior medial and lateral regions in AD and the anterior lateral temporal lobes in SD, both AD and SD patients are characterized by bilateral atrophy of the hippocampus. Furthermore, in SD, the hippocampal atrophy was limited to the anterior portion of the hippocampus, while in AD, both the anterior and posterior parts of the hippocampus exhibited atrophy. When we compared the foci identified in the studies that compared AD patients versus CTRLs with those identified in the studies that compared SD patients versus CTRLs, we observed that the atrophy in the posterior hippocampus and precuneus was more severe in AD.
Conclusion: These results support theories that propose that the deficits observed in AD result from damage to the episodic memory network, which involves the posterior hippocampus and posterior medial brain regions. However, sparing of the posterior hippocampus in SD could explain the absence of episodic memory deficits in this population.
Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; episodic memory; gray matter; meta-analysis; semantic dementia; semantic memory; semantic variant of primary progressive aphasia; voxel-based morphometry.