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Improved understanding of the pattern of white matter changes in early and prodromal Alzheimer's disease (AD) states such as mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is necessary to support earlier preclinical detection of AD, and debate remains whether white matter changes in MCI are secondary to gray matter changes. We applied neuropsychologically based MCI criteria to a sample of normally aging older adults; 32 participants met criteria for MCI and 81 participants were classified as normal control (NC) subjects. Whole-head high resolution T1 and diffusion tensor imaging scans were completed. Tract-Based Spatial Statistics was applied and a priori selected regions of interest were extracted. Hippocampal volume and cortical thickness averaged across regions with known vulnerability to AD were derived. Controlling for cortical thickness, the MCI group showed decreased average fractional anisotropy (FA) and decreased FA in parietal white matter and in white matter underlying the entorhinal and posterior cingulate cortices relative to the NC group. Statistically controlling for cortical thickness, medial temporal FA was related to memory and parietal FA was related to executive functioning. These results provide further support for the potential role of white matter integrity as an early biomarker for individuals at risk for AD and highlight that changes in white matter may be independent of gray matter changes. (JINS, 2013, 19, 1–13)
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