Divergent magnetic resonance imaging atrophy patterns in Alzheimer's disease and primary age-related tauopathy

Neurobiol Aging. 2022 Sep:117:1-11. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2022.04.013. Epub 2022 May 1.


Our study compared brain MRI with neuropathological findings in patients with primary age-related tauopathy (PART) and Alzheimer's disease (AD), while assessing the relationship between brain atrophy and clinical impairment. We analyzed 233 participants: 32 with no plaques ("definite" PART-BRAAK stage higher than 0 and CERAD 0), and 201 cases within the AD spectrum, with 25 with sparse (CERAD 1), 76 with moderate (CERAD 2), and 100 with severe (CERAD 3) degrees of neuritic plaques. Upon correcting for age, sex, and age difference at MRI and death, there were significantly higher levels of atrophy in CERAD 3 compared to CERAD 1-2 and a trend compared to PART (p = 0.06). In the anterior temporal region, there was a trend for higher levels of atrophy in PART compared to Alzheimer's disease spectrum cases with CERAD 1 (p = 0.08). We then assessed the correlation between regional brain atrophy and CDR sum of boxes score for PART and AD, and found that overall cognition deficits are directly correlated with regional atrophy in the AD continuum, but not in definite PART. We further observed correlations between regional brain atrophy with multiple neuropsychological metrics in AD, with PART showing specific correlations between language deficits and anterior temporal atrophy. Overall, these findings support PART as an independent pathologic process from AD.

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; Brain imaging; MRI; Primary age-related tauopathy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease* / pathology
  • Atrophy / pathology
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / pathology
  • Cognitive Dysfunction* / diagnostic imaging
  • Cognitive Dysfunction* / etiology
  • Cognitive Dysfunction* / pathology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Plaque, Amyloid / pathology
  • Tauopathies* / diagnostic imaging
  • Tauopathies* / pathology