Fascicle- and Glucose-Specific Deterioration in White Matter Energy Supply in Alzheimer's Disease

J Alzheimers Dis. 2020;76(3):863-881. doi: 10.3233/JAD-200213.


Background: White matter energy supply to oligodendrocytes and the axonal compartment is crucial for normal axonal function. Although gray matter glucose hypometabolism is extensively reported in Alzheimer's disease (AD), glucose and ketones, the brain's two main fuels, are rarely quantified in white matter in AD.

Objective: Using a dual-tracer PET method combined with a fascicle-specific diffusion MRI approach, robust to white matter hyper intensities and crossing fibers, we aimed to quantify both glucose and ketone metabolism in specific white matter fascicles associated with mild cognitive impairment (MCI; n = 51) and AD (n = 13) compared to cognitively healthy age-matched controls (Controls; n = 14).

Methods: Eight white matter fascicles of the limbic lobe and corpus callosum were extracted and analyzed into fascicle profiles of five sections. Glucose (18F-fluorodeoxyglucose) and ketone (11C-acetoacetate) uptake rates, corrected for partial volume effect, were calculated along each fascicle.

Results: The only fascicle with significantly lower glucose uptake in AD compared to Controls was the left posterior cingulate segment of the cingulum (-22%; p = 0.016). Non-significantly lower glucose uptake in this fascicle was also observed in MCI. In contrast to glucose, ketone uptake was either unchanged or higher in sections of the fornix and parahippocampal segment of the cingulum in AD.

Conclusion: To our knowledge, this is the first report of brain fuel uptake calculated along white matter fascicles in humans. Energetic deterioration in white matter in AD appears to be specific to glucose and occurs first in the posterior cingulum.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; FDG; PET; diffusion MRI; ketones; white matter.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / metabolism
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / pathology
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging / methods
  • Female
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18 / metabolism
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Gray Matter / metabolism
  • Gyrus Cinguli / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • White Matter / metabolism*
  • White Matter / pathology*


  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18
  • Glucose

Grant support