Extensive research suggests that basal forebrain (BF) cholinergic neurons are selectively vulnerable to Alzheimer's disease (AD). However, it remains unknown whether volume loss of BF cholinergic compartments parallels structural changes of their innervated regions in prodromal AD. To this aim, we have correlated volume of each BF compartment with cortical thickness and hippocampus/amygdala volume in 106 healthy older (HO) adults and 106 amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI) patients. Correlations were limited to regions affected by atrophy in aMCI. The volume of the nucleus basalis of Meynert (NBM/Ch4) was positively correlated with thickness of the temporal cortex in aMCI, and with volume of amygdala in HO and aMCI, separately. Volume of the medial septum/diagonal band of Broca (Ch1-Ch3) was also positively correlated with volume of the hippocampus within the 2 groups. Only correlations between the NBM and their innervated regions showed diagnostic value. Unlike men, aMCI women showed a stronger association between volume of the NBM and thickness of the temporal lobe when compared with HO women. Altogether, these results reveal, for the first time in humans, that atrophy of NBM is associated with structural changes of their innervated regions in prodromal AD, being this relationship more evident in women.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cognitive Neuroscience
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Basal forebrain
- Cholinergic system
- Mild cognitive impairment
- Nucleus basalis of Meynert