Background: Alzheimer's disease (AD) is associated with changes in cerebral white matter (WM), but the functional significance of such findings is not yet established. We hypothesized that diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) might reveal links between regional WM changes and specific neuropsychologically and psychophysically defined impairments in early AD. Methods: Older adult control subjects (OA, n = 18) and mildly impaired AD patients (n = 14) underwent neuropsychological and visual perceptual testing along with DTI of cerebral WM. DTI yielded factional anisotropy (FA) and mean diffusivity (〈D〉) maps for nine regions of interest in three brain regions that were then compared with the performance measures. Results: AD patients exhibited nonsignificant trends toward lower FAs in the posterior region's callosal and subcortical regions of interest. However, posterior callosal FA was significantly correlated with verbal fluency and figural memory impairments, whereas posterior subcortical FA was correlated with delayed verbal memory, figural memory, and optic flow perceptual impairments. Conclusions: WM changes in early AD are concentrated in posterior cerebral areas, with distributions that correspond to specific functional impairments. DTI can be used to assess regional pathology related to individual's deficits in early AD.
- Alzheimer's disease
- Cognitive impairment
- Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI)
- Optic flow
- White matter