Bundle-specific associations between white matter microstructure and Aβ and tau pathology in preclinical Alzheimer's disease

Elife. 2021 May 13;10:e62929. doi: 10.7554/eLife.62929.


Beta-amyloid (Aβ) and tau proteins, the pathological hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease (AD), are believed to spread through connected regions of the brain. Combining diffusion imaging and positron emission tomography, we investigated associations between white matter microstructure specifically in bundles connecting regions where Aβ or tau accumulates and pathology. We focused on free-water-corrected diffusion measures in the anterior cingulum, posterior cingulum, and uncinate fasciculus in cognitively normal older adults at risk of sporadic AD and presymptomatic mutation carriers of autosomal dominant AD. In Aβ-positive or tau-positive groups, lower tissue fractional anisotropy and higher mean diffusivity related to greater Aβ and tau burden in both cohorts. Associations were found in the posterior cingulum and uncinate fasciculus in preclinical sporadic AD, and in the anterior and posterior cingulum in presymptomatic mutation carriers. These results suggest that microstructural alterations accompany pathological accumulation as early as the preclinical stage of both sporadic and autosomal dominant AD.

Keywords: PET; cingulum; diffusion MRI; free-water; human; neuroscience; uncinate fasciculus.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / diagnostic imaging*
  • Alzheimer Disease / genetics
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / metabolism*
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Positron-Emission Tomography
  • White Matter / pathology
  • White Matter / ultrastructure*
  • tau Proteins / metabolism*


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • tau Proteins