Longitudinal Analysis of Brain-Predicted Age in Amnestic and Non-amnestic Sporadic Early-Onset Alzheimer's Disease

Front Aging Neurosci. 2021 Nov 3;13:729635. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2021.729635. eCollection 2021.


Objective: Predicted age difference (PAD) is a score computed by subtracting chronological age from "brain" age, which is estimated using neuroimaging data. The goal of this study was to evaluate the PAD as a marker of phenotypic heterogeneity and severity among early-onset Alzheimer's disease (EOAD) patients. Methods: We first used 3D T1-weighted (3D-T1) magnetic resonance images (MRI) of 3,227 healthy subjects aged between 18 and 85 years to train, optimize, and evaluate the brain age model. A total of 123 participants who met the criteria for early-onset (<65 years) sporadic form of probable Alzheimer's disease (AD) and presented with two distinctive clinical presentations [an amnestic form (n = 74) and a non-amnestic form (n = 49)] were included at baseline and followed-up for a maximum period of 4 years. All the participants underwent a work-up at baseline and every year during the follow-up period, which included clinical examination, neuropsychological testing and genotyping, and structural MRI. In addition, cerebrospinal fluid biomarker assay was recorded at baseline. PAD score was calculated by applying brain age model to 3D-T1 images of the EOAD patients and healthy controls, who were matched based on age and sex. At baseline, between-group differences for neuropsychological and PAD scores were assessed using linear models. Regarding longitudinal analysis of neuropsychological and PAD scores, differences between amnestic and non-amnestic participants were analyzed using linear mixed-effects modeling. Results: PAD score was significantly higher for non-amnestic patients (2.35 ± 0.91) when compared to amnestic patients (2.09 ± 0.74) and controls (0.00 ± 1). Moreover, PAD score was linearly correlated with the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) and the Clinical Dementia Rating Sum of Boxes (CDR-SB), for both amnestic and non-amnestic sporadic forms. Longitudinal analyses showed that the gradual development of the disease in patients was accompanied by a significant increase in PAD score over time, for both amnestic and non-amnestic patients. Conclusion: PAD score was able to separate amnestic and non-amnestic sporadic forms. Regardless of the clinical presentation, as PAD score was a way of quantifying an early brain age acceleration, it was an appropriate method to detect the development of AD and follow the evolution of the disease as a marker of severity as MMSE and CDR-SB.

Keywords: brain age; deep learning; early-onset Alzheimer's disease; longitudinal analysis; phenotypic variants; structural MRI.