Introduction: Volumetric biomarkers for Alzheimer disease (AD) are attractive due to their wide availability and ease of administration, but have traditionally shown lower diagnostic accuracy than measures of neuropathological contributors to AD. Our purpose was to optimize the diagnostic specificity of structural MRIs for AD using quantitative, data-driven techniques. Methods: This retrospective study assembled several non-overlapping cohorts (total n = 1287) with publicly available data and clinical patients from Barnes–Jewish Hospital (data gathered 1990–2018). The Normal Aging Cohort (n = 383) contained amyloid biomarker negative, cognitively normal (CN) participants, and provided a basis for determining age-related atrophy in other cohorts. The Training (n = 216) and Test (n = 109) Cohorts contained participants with symptomatic AD and CN controls. Classification models were developed in the Training Cohort and compared in the Test Cohort using the receiver operating characteristics areas under curve (AUCs). Additional model comparisons were done in the Clinical Cohort (n = 579), which contained patients who were diagnosed with dementia due to various etiologies in a tertiary care outpatient memory clinic. Results: While the Normal Aging Cohort showed regional age-related atrophy, classification models were not improved by including age as a predictor or by using volumetrics adjusted for age-related atrophy. The optimal model used multiple regions (hippocampal volume, inferior lateral ventricle volume, amygdala volume, entorhinal thickness, and inferior parietal thickness) and was able to separate AD and CN controls in the Test Cohort with an AUC of 0.961. In the Clinical Cohort, this model separated AD from non-AD diagnoses with an AUC 0.820, an incrementally greater separation of the cohort than by hippocampal volume alone (AUC of 0.801, p = 0.06). Greatest separation was seen for AD vs. frontotemporal dementia and for AD vs. non-neurodegenerative diagnoses. Conclusions: Volumetric biomarkers distinguished individuals with symptomatic AD from CN controls and other dementia types but were not improved by controlling for normal aging.
- Alzheimer disease
- Diagnostic biomarkers