Mapping Neurodegenerative Disease Onset and Progression

Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol. 2017 Aug 1;9(8):a023622. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a023622.


Brain networks have been of long-standing interest to neurodegeneration researchers, including but not limited to investigators focusing on conventional prion diseases, which are known to propagate along neural pathways. Tools for human network mapping, however, remained inadequate, limiting our understanding of human brain network architecture and preventing clinical research applications. Until recently, neuropathological studies were the only viable approach to mapping disease onset and progression in humans but required large autopsy cohorts and laborious methods for whole-brain sectioning and staining. Despite important advantages, postmortem studies cannot address in vivo, physiological, or longitudinal questions and have limited potential to explore early-stage disease except for the most common disorders. Emerging in vivo network-based neuroimaging strategies have begun to address these issues, providing data that complement the neuropathological tradition. Overall, findings to date highlight several fundamental principles of neurodegenerative disease anatomy and pathogenesis, as well as some enduring mysteries. These principles and mysteries provide a road map for future research.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / etiology