Functional Connectivity Disruption in Subjective Cognitive Decline and Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Common Pattern of Alterations

Front Aging Neurosci. 2017 Apr 21;9:109. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2017.00109. eCollection 2017.


Functional connectivity (FC) alterations represent a key feature in Alzheimer's Disease (AD) and provide a useful tool to characterize and predict the course of the disease. Those alterations have been also described in Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), a prodromal stage of AD. There is a growing interest in detecting AD pathology in the brain in the very early stages of the disorder. Subjective Cognitive Decline (SCD) could represent a preclinical asymptomatic stage of AD but very little is known about this population. In the present work we assessed whether FC disruptions are already present in this stage, and if they share any spatial distribution properties with MCI alterations (a condition known to be highly related to AD). To this end, we measured electromagnetic spontaneous activity with MEG in 39 healthy control elders, 41 elders with SCD and 51 MCI patients. The results showed FC alterations in both SCD and MCI compared to the healthy control group. Interestingly, both groups exhibited a very similar spatial pattern of altered links: a hyper-synchronized anterior network and a posterior network characterized by a decrease in FC. This decrease was more pronounced in the MCI group. These results highlight that elders with SCD present FC alterations. More importantly, those disruptions affected AD typically related areas and showed great overlap with the alterations exhibited by MCI patients. These results support the consideration of SCD as a preclinical stage of AD and may indicate that FC alterations appear very early in the course of the disease.

Keywords: Alzheimer disease; Functional connectivity; Subjective Cognitive Decline; magnetoencephalography; mild cognitive impairment.