Auditory "oddball" event-related potentials (aoERPs), resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rsfMRI) connectivity, and electroencephalographic (rsEEG) rhythms were tested as longitudinal functional biomarkers of prodromal Alzheimer's disease (AD). Data were collected at baseline and four follow-ups at 6, 12, 18, and 24 months in amnesic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI) patients classified in two groups: "positive" (i.e., "prodromal AD"; n = 81) or "negative" (n = 63) based on a diagnostic marker of AD derived from cerebrospinal samples (Aβ42/P-tau ratio). A linear mixed model design was used to test functional biomarkers for Group, Time, and Group×Time effects adjusted by nuisance covariates (only data until conversion to dementia was used). Functional biomarkers that showed significant Group effects ("positive" versus "negative", p < 0.05) regardless of Time were 1) reduced rsfMRI connectivity in both the default mode network (DMN) and the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), both also giving significant Time effects (connectivity decay regardless of Group); 2) increased rsEEG source activity at delta (<4 Hz) and theta (4-8 Hz) rhythms and decreased source activity at low-frequency alpha (8-10.5 Hz) rhythms; and 3) reduced parietal and posterior cingulate source activities of aoERPs. Time×Group effects showed differential functional biomarker progression between groups: 1) increased rsfMRI connectivity in the left parietal cortex of the DMN nodes, consistent with compensatory effects and 2) increased limbic source activity at theta rhythms. These findings represent the first longitudinal characterization of functional biomarkers of prodromal AD relative to "negative" aMCI patients based on 5 serial recording sessions over 2 years.
Keywords: Alpha rhythms; PharmaCog project; amnesic mild cognitive impairment; biomarkers; clinical trial; electroencephalography; functional magnetic resonance imaging; oddball event-related potentials; prodromal Alzheimer’s disease; resting state.