Using neurite orientation dispersion and density imaging and tracts constrained by underlying anatomy to differentiate between subjects along the Alzheimer's disease continuum
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OBJECTIVE: To assess the involvement of the white matter of the brain in the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease. Using Neurite Orientation Density and Dispersion Imaging (NODDI) and the probabilistic white matter parcellation tool Tracula as a means for understanding whether alterations in the white matter underlie changes in perceived cognitive abilities across the spectrum from health aging to Alzheimer’s disease. METHOD: Data were obtained from 28 participants in the Health Outreach Program for the Elderly (HOPE) at the Boston University Alzheimer’s Disease Center (BU ADC) Clinical Core Registry. MRI scans included an MPRAGE T1 scan, multi-b shell diffusion scan and a High Angular Resolution Diffusion Imaging scan (HARDI). Scans were processed with Freesurfer v6.0 and the NODDI Python2.7 toolkit. The resulting data included the orientation dispersion index (ODI) and Fractional Anisotropy (FA) values for cortical and subcortical regions in the DKT atlas space as well as specific Tracts Constrained by Underlying Anatomy (TRACULA) measurements for 18 specific established white matter tracts. Statistical models using measures of pathway integrity (FA and ODI data) were used to assess relationships with Informant Cognitive Change Index (ICCI), self-described Cognitive Change Index (CCI), and Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR) values. RESULTS: Measures of white matter integrity within several tracts predicted ICCI and CDR well in statistical models. FA and ODI values of the bilateral superior longitudinal fasciculi, inferior longitudinal fasciculi, and the cingulum bundle tracts were all related to ICCI and CDR. None of the known tracts’ FA or ODI values were related to CCI. CONCLUSIONS: Measures of white matter pathway integrity were predictive of ICCI and CDR scores but not CCI. These finding support the notion that self-report of cognitive abilities may be compromised by alterations in insight and reinforce the need for informed study partners and clinical ratings to evaluate potential MCI and AD.