Molecular imaging in dementia: Past, present, and future

Alzheimers Dement. 2018 Nov;14(11):1522-1552. doi: 10.1016/j.jalz.2018.06.2855. Epub 2018 Jul 18.


Molecular imaging techniques using 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose, amyloid tracers, and, more recently, tau ligands have taken dementia research by storm and undoubtedly improved our understanding of neurodegenerative diseases. The ability to image in vivo the pathological substrates of degenerative diseases and visualize their downstream impact has led to improved models of pathogenesis, better differential diagnosis of atypical conditions, as well as focused subject selection and monitoring of treatment in clinical trials aimed at delaying or preventing the symptomatic phase of Alzheimer's disease. In this article, we present the main molecular imaging techniques used in research and practice. We further summarize the key findings brought about by each technique individually and more recently, as adjuncts to each other. Specific limitations of each imaging modality are discussed, as well as recommendations to overcome them. A nonvalidated clinical algorithm is proposed for earlier and more accurate identification of complex/atypical neurodegenerative diseases.

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; Amyloid PET; Atypical dementia; Dementia; Differential diagnosis; FDG-PET; Molecular imaging; Neurodegenerative diseases; Pathogenesis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Dementia / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Imaging* / methods