Brain Volume Predicts Behavioral and Psychological Symptoms in Alzheimer's Disease

J Alzheimers Dis. 2020;73(4):1343-1353. doi: 10.3233/JAD-190612.


Background: Behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD) are frequent and troublesome for patients and caregivers. Considering possible preventive approaches, a better understanding of underlying neural correlates of BPSD is crucial.

Objective: The aim is to assess whether brain regional volume predicts behavioral changes in mild AD.

Methods: This work took part from the PACO study, a multicenter and prospective study that included 252 patients with mild AD from 2009 to 2014. Fifty-three patients were retained. Forty healthy matched control subjects from the ADNI cohort were included as controls. Voxel-based morphometry analysis was conducted to assess regional brain volume using baseline MRI scans as a predictor of future behavioral changes over a period of 18 months. Behavior was assessed at baseline and longitudinally at 6-month intervals using the shortened form of the Neuropsychiatric Inventory (NPI).

Results: The volume of 23 brain structures in frontal, temporal, parietal, occipital, subcortical regions and cerebellum predicted the evolution of NPI scores. Frontal volume was the most powerful predictor with frontal gyri, anterior cingulate cortex, and orbital gyri being particularly involved.

Conclusion: To our knowledge, this is the first study assessing regional brain volumes as predictors of behavioral changes considered at earlier stages of AD. Up to 23 brain structures were associated with an increased risk of developing BPSD. Frontal lobe volume was the strongest predictor of future evolution of NPI. The involvement of multiple structures in the prediction of behavior suggests a role of the main large-scale networks involved in cognition.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; Neuropsychiatric Inventory; behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia; magnetic resonance imaging; neuroimaging.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / diagnostic imaging*
  • Alzheimer Disease / psychology*
  • Behavioral Symptoms
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / diagnostic imaging
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / psychology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Mental Status and Dementia Tests
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prospective Studies