Neuroimaging measures have potential as surrogate markers of disease through identification of consistent features that occur prior to clinical symptoms. Despite numerous investigations, especially in relation to the transition to clinical impairment, the regional pattern of brain changes in clinically normal older adults has not been established. We predict that the regions that show early pathologic changes in association with Alzheimer disease will show accelerated volume loss in mild cognitive impairment (MCI) compared to normal aging.Methods:
Through the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, we prospectively evaluated 138 nondemented individuals (age 64–86 years) annually for up to 10 consecutive years. Eighteen participants were diagnosed with MCI over the course of the study. Mixed-effects regression was used to compare regional brain volume trajectories of clinically normal individuals to those with MCI based on a total of 1,017 observations.Results:
All investigated volumes declined with normal aging (p < 0.05). Accelerated change with age was observed for ventricular CSF (vCSF), frontal gray matter, superior, middle, and medial frontal, and superior parietal regions (p ≤ 0.04). The MCI group showed accelerated changes compared to normal controls in whole brain volume, vCSF, temporal gray matter, and orbitofrontal and temporal association cortices, including the hippocampus (p ≤ 0.04).Conclusion:
Although age-related regional volume loss is apparent and widespread in nondemented individuals, mild cognitive impairment is associated with a unique pattern of structural vulnerability reflected in differential volume loss in specific regions. Early identification of patterns of abnormality is of fundamental importance for detecting disease onset and tracking progression.