Local and distant relationships between amyloid, tau and neurodegeneration in Alzheimer's Disease

Neuroimage Clin. 2017 Sep 25:17:452-464. doi: 10.1016/j.nicl.2017.09.016. eCollection 2018.


The relationships between β-amyloid (Aβ), tau and neurodegeneration within Alzheimer's Disease pathogenesis are not fully understood. To explore these associations in vivo, we evaluated 30 Aβ PET-positive patients (mean ± sd age 62.4 ± 8.3) with mild probable AD and 12 Aβ PET-negative healthy controls (HC) (mean ± sd age 77.3 ± 6.9) as comparison. All participants underwent 3 T MRI, 11C-PiB (Aβ) PET and 18F-AV1451 (tau) PET. Multimodal correlation analyses were run at both voxel- and region-of-interest levels. 11C-PiB retention in AD showed the most diffuse uptake pattern throughout association neocortex, whereas 18F-AV1451 and gray matter volume reduction (GMR) showed a progressive predilection for posterior cortices (p<0.05 Family-Wise Error-[FWE]-corrected). Voxel-level analysis identified negative correlations between 18F-AV1451 and gray matter peaking in medial and infero-occipital regions (p<0.01 False Discovery Rate-[FDR]-corrected). 18F-AV1451 and 11C-PiB were positively correlated in right parietal and medial/inferior occipital regions (p<0.001 uncorrected). 11C-PiB did not correlate with GMR at the voxel-level. Regionally, 18F-AV1451 was largely associated with local/adjacent GMR whereas frontal 11C-PiB correlated with GMR in posterior regions. These findings suggest that, in mild AD, tau aggregation drives local neurodegeneration, whereas the relationships between Aβ and neurodegeneration are not region specific and may be mediated by the interaction between Aβ and tau.

Keywords: Alzheimer's Disease; Amyloid imaging; Brain atrophy; Dementia; Tau imaging.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / diagnostic imaging
  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism*
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology*
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / metabolism*
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neural Pathways / diagnostic imaging
  • Neural Pathways / metabolism
  • Neural Pathways / pathology
  • Positron-Emission Tomography
  • tau Proteins / metabolism*


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • MAPT protein, human
  • tau Proteins