Applications of amyloid, tau, and neuroinflammation PET imaging to Alzheimer's disease and mild cognitive impairment

Hum Brain Mapp. 2019 Dec 15;40(18):5424-5442. doi: 10.1002/hbm.24782. Epub 2019 Sep 14.


Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a devastating and progressive neurodegenerative disease for which there is no cure. Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is considered a prodromal stage of the disease. Molecular imaging with positron emission tomography (PET) allows for the in vivo visualisation and tracking of pathophysiological changes in AD and MCI. PET is a very promising methodology for differential diagnosis and novel targets of PET imaging might also serve as biomarkers for disease-modifying therapeutic interventions. This review provides an overview of the current status and applications of in vivo molecular imaging of AD pathology, specifically amyloid, tau, and microglial activation. PET imaging studies were included and evaluated as potential biomarkers and for monitoring disease progression. Although the majority of radiotracers showed the ability to discriminate AD and MCI patients from healthy controls, they had various limitations that prevent the recommendation of a single technique or tracer as an optimal biomarker. Newer research examining amyloid, tau, and microglial PET imaging in combination suggest an alternative approach in studying the disease process.

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; PET; amyloid; mild cognitive impairment; neuroinflammation; neuropathology; tau.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / diagnostic imaging
  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism*
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / metabolism*
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / diagnostic imaging
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / diagnostic imaging
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Positron-Emission Tomography / methods*
  • tau Proteins / metabolism*


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Biomarkers
  • tau Proteins

Grant support