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Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), which is a technique for measuring the degree and direction of movement of water molecules in tissue, has been widely used to noninvasively assess white matter (WM) or gray matter (GM) microstructures in vivo. Mean diffusivity (MD), which is the average diffusion across all directions, has been considered as a marker of WM tract degeneration or extracellular space enlargement in GM. Recent lines of evidence suggest that cortical MD can better identify early-stage Alzheimer’s disease than structural morphometric parameters in magnetic resonance imaging. However, knowledge of the relationships between cortical MD and other biological factors in the same cortical region, e.g. metabolites, is still limited.
Thirty-three healthy elderly individuals [aged 50–77 years (mean, 63.8±7.4 years); 11 males and 22 females] were enrolled. We estimated the associations between cortical MD and neurotransmitter levels. Specifically, we measured levels of γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and glutamate + glutamine (Glx), which are inhibitory and excitatory neurotransmitters, respectively, in medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) using MEGA-PRESS magnetic resonance spectroscopy, and we measured regional cortical MD using DTI.
Cortical MD was significantly negatively associated with Glx levels in both mPFC and PCC. No significant association was observed between cortical MD and GABA levels in either GM region.
Our findings suggest that degeneration of microstructural organization in GM, as determined on the basis of cortical MD measured by DTI, is accompanied by the decline of Glx metabolism within the same GM region.
Although recent studies have suggested that the γ-aminobutyric acid type A (GABAA) receptor binding affinity can be a more sensitive marker of age-related neuronal loss than regional gray matter (GM) volume, knowledge about the relationship between decreased GABAA receptor binding affinity and cognitive decline during normal aging is still limited.
Thirty-seven healthy elderly individuals (aged 50–77 years (mean, 64.5 ± 7.3 years); 15 males and 22 females) were enrolled in this study. We investigated the association of the performance of the healthy elderly in the attentional function test with regional GM volume, regional cerebral bold flow (rCBF), and GABAA receptor binding affinity in the resting state by structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), arterial spin labeling (ASL), and 123I-iomazenil (IMZ) SPECT, with the analysis focusing on the bilateral inferior frontal gyri.
The score of the rapid visual information processing (RVP) test, which is used to assess visual sustained attention, showed a positive correlation with GABAA receptor binding affinity in the right inferior frontal gyrus. No significant correlation was found between RVP test score and regional GM volume or rCBF.
The findings of 123I-IMZ SPECT, but not those of structural MRI or ASL, suggest that a decreased GABAA receptor binding affinity can be a sensitive marker of cognitive impairment.
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