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White matter diffusivity predicts memory in patients with subjective and mild cognitive impairment and normal CSF total tau levels

  • RAMUNE GRAMBAITE (a1) (a2), VIDAR STENSET (a1) (a3) (a4), IVAR REINVANG (a2), KRISTINE B. WALHOVD (a2), ANDERS M. FJELL (a2) and TORMOD FLADBY (a1) (a3)...

Subjective and mild cognitive impairment (SCI and MCI) are etiologically heterogeneous conditions. This poses problems for assessment of pathophysiological mechanisms and risk of conversion to dementia. Neuropsychological, imaging, and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) findings serve to distinguish Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and other etiological subgroups. Tau-molecules stabilize axonal microtubuli; high CSF total tau (T-tau) reflects ongoing axonal damage consistent with AD. Here, we stratify patients by CSF T-tau pathology to determine if memory network diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) predicts memory performance in the absence of elevated T-tau. We analyzed neuropsychological test results, hippocampus volume (HcV) and white matter diffusivity in 45 patients (35 with normal T-tau). The T-tau pathology group showed more hippocampus atrophy and memory impairment than the normal T-tau group. In the T-tau normal group: (1) memory was related with white matter diffusivity [fractional anisotropy (FA) and radial diffusivity (DR)], and (2) FA of the genu corpus callosum was a unique predictor of variance for verbal learning, and HcV did not contribute to this prediction. The smaller sample size in the T-tau pathology group precludes firm conclusions. In the normal T-tau group, white matter tract and memory changes may be associated with normal aging, or with non-tau related pathological mechanisms. (JINS, 2010, 16, 58–69.)

Corresponding author
*Correspondence and reprint requests to: Ramune Grambaite, Department of Neurology, Akershus University Hospital, Sykehusveien 25, 1478 Lørenskog, Norway. E-mail:
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