Gray matter networks are disrupted in Alzheimer's disease and related to cognitive impairment. However, it is still unclear whether these disruptions are associated with cognitive decline over time. Here, we studied this question in a large sample of patients with mild cognitive impairment with extensive longitudinal neuropsychological assessments. Gray matter networks were extracted from baseline structural magnetic resonance imaging, and we tested associations of network measures and cognitive decline in Mini-Mental State Examination and 5 cognitive domains (i.e., memory, attention, executive function, visuospatial, and language). Disrupted network properties were cross-sectionally related to worse cognitive impairment. Longitudinally, lower small-world coefficient values were associated with a steeper decline in almost all domains. Lower betweenness centrality values correlated with a faster decline in Mini-Mental State Examination and memory, and at a regional level, these associations were specific for the precuneus, medial frontal, and temporal cortex. Furthermore, network measures showed additive value over established biomarkers in predicting cognitive decline. Our results suggest that gray matter network measures might have use in identifying patients who will show fast disease progression.
Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; Cognitive decline; Graph theory; Gray matter networks; Mild cognitive impairment; Single-subject.
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