Tau-PET Binding Distinguishes Patients With Early-stage Posterior Cortical Atrophy From Amnestic Alzheimer Disease Dementia

Alzheimer Dis Assoc Disord. 2017 Apr-Jun;31(2):87-93. doi: 10.1097/WAD.0000000000000196.


Background: Flortaucipir (tau) positron emission tomography (PET) binding distinguishes individuals with clinically well-established posterior cortical atrophy (PCA) due to Alzheimer disease (AD) from cognitively normal (CN) controls. However, it is not known whether tau-PET binding patterns differentiate individuals with PCA from those with amnestic AD, particularly early in the symptomatic stages of disease.

Methods: Flortaucipir and florbetapir (β-amyloid) PET imaging were performed in individuals with early-stage PCA (N=5), amnestic AD dementia (N=22), and CN controls (N=47). Average tau and β-amyloid deposition were quantified using standard uptake value ratios and compared at a voxelwise level, controlling for age.

Results: PCA patients [median age-at-onset, 59 (51 to 61) years] were younger at symptom onset than similarly staged individuals with amnestic AD [75 (60 to 85) years] or CN controls [73 (61 to 90) years; P=0.002]. Flortaucipir uptake was higher in individuals with early-stage symptomatic PCA versus those with early-stage amnestic AD or CN controls, and greatest in posterior regions. Regional elevations in florbetapir were observed in areas of greatest tau deposition in PCA patients.

Conclusions and relevance: Flortaucipir uptake distinguished individuals with PCA and amnestic AD dementia early in the symptomatic course. The posterior brain regions appear to be uniquely vulnerable to tau deposition in PCA, aligning with clinical deficits that define this disease subtype.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Age of Onset*
  • Aged
  • Alzheimer Disease / diagnosis
  • Alzheimer Disease / diagnostic imaging
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology*
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / metabolism
  • Aniline Compounds
  • Atrophy / pathology
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology
  • Ethylene Glycols
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Positron-Emission Tomography / methods*


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Aniline Compounds
  • Ethylene Glycols
  • florbetapir