Magnetic resonance imaging in Alzheimer's disease and mild cognitive impairment

J Neurol. 2019 Jun;266(6):1293-1302. doi: 10.1007/s00415-018-9016-3. Epub 2018 Aug 17.


Research utilizing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has been crucial to the understanding of the neuropathological mechanisms behind and clinical identification of Alzheimer's disease (AD) and mild cognitive impairment (MCI). MRI modalities show patterns of brain damage that discriminate AD from other brain illnesses and brain abnormalities that are associated with risk of conversion to AD from MCI and other behavioural outcomes. This review discusses the application of various MRI techniques to and their clinical usefulness in AD and MCI. MRI modalities covered include structural MRI, diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), arterial spin labelling (ASL), magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), and functional MRI (fMRI). There is much evidence supporting the validity of MRI as a biomarker for these disorders; however, only traditional structural imaging is currently recommended for routine use in clinical settings. Future research is needed to warrant the inclusion for more advanced MRI methodology in forthcoming revisions to diagnostic criteria for AD and MCI.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; Magnetic resonance imaging; Mild cognitive impairment; Neuropathology.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / diagnostic imaging*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Neuroimaging*