Cross-sectional and Longitudinal Assessment of Brain Iron Level in Alzheimer Disease Using 3-T MRI

Radiology. 2020 Sep;296(3):619-626. doi: 10.1148/radiol.2020192541. Epub 2020 Jun 30.


Background Deep gray matter structures in patients with Alzheimer disease (AD) contain higher brain iron concentrations. However, few studies have included neocortical areas, which are challenging to assess with MRI. Purpose To investigate baseline and change in brain iron levels using MRI at 3 T with R2* relaxation rate mapping in individuals with AD compared with healthy control (HC) participants. Materials and Methods In this prospective study, participants with AD recruited between 2010 and 2016 and age-matched HC participants selected from 2010 to 2014 were evaluated. Of 100 participants with AD, 56 underwent subsequent neuropsychological testing and brain MRI at a mean follow-up of 17 months. All participants underwent 3-T MRI, including R2* mapping corrected for macroscopic B0 field inhomogeneities. Anatomic structures were segmented, and median R2* values were calculated in the neocortex and cortical lobes, basal ganglia (BG), hippocampi, and thalami. Multivariable linear regression analysis was applied to study the difference in R2* levels between groups and the association between longitudinal changes in R2* values and cognition in the AD group. Results A total of 100 participants with AD (mean age, 73 years ± 9 [standard deviation]; 58 women) and 100 age-matched HC participants (mean age, 73 years ± 9; 60 women) were evaluated. Median R2* levels were higher in the AD group than in the HC group in the BG (HC, 29.0 sec-1; AD, 30.2 sec-1; P = .01) and total neocortex (HC, 17.0 sec-1; AD, 17.4 sec-1; P < .001) and regionally in the occipital (HC, 19.6 sec-1; AD, 20.2 sec-1; P = .007) and temporal (HC, 16.4 sec-1; AD, 18.1 sec-1; P < .001) lobes. R2* values in the temporal lobe were associated with longitudinal changes in Consortium to Establish a Registry for Alzheimer's Disease total score (β = -3.23 score/sec-1, P = .003) in participants with AD independent of longitudinal changes in brain volume. Conclusion Iron concentration in the deep gray matter and neocortical regions was higher in patients with Alzheimer disease than in healthy control participants. Change in iron levels over time in the temporal lobe was associated with cognitive decline in individuals with Alzheimer disease. © RSNA, 2020 Online supplemental material is available for this article.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain Chemistry / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Iron / analysis*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies


  • Iron