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CHANGES IN BRAIN FUNCTIONAL CONNECTIVITY IN ALZHEIMER-TYPE AND MULTI-INFARCT DEMENTIA

ANDREW F. LEUCHTER, THOMAS F. NEWTON, IAN A. COOK, DONALD O. WALTER, SUSAN ROSENBERG-THOMPSON, PETER A. LACHENBRUCH
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/brain/115.5.1543 1543-1561 First published online: 1 October 1992

Summary

Clinical and neuropathological evaluation of elderly subjects with dementia has traditionally concentrated upon the focal distribution of brain disease, ignoring changes in the complex connections that link brain areas and that are crucial for cognition. We examined subjects with the two most common forms of dementia in the elderly (dementia of the Alzheimer type or DAT, and multi-infarct dementia or MID); and used electroencephalographic (EEG) coherence to examine the effects of these illnesses on the functional connections between brain areas. We studied coherence between brain areas known to be linked by two different types of connections: (i) dense narrow bands of long corticocortical fibres; (ii) broad complex networks of corticocortical and corticosubcortical fibres. Areas that were linked by dense narrow bands of long corticocortical fibres showed greatly diminished coherence in subjects with DAT; among MID subjects, this coherence was not significantly affected. Areas that were linked by broad connective networks showed the largest decreases in coherence among MID subjects. These findings are consistent with neuropathological evidence that Alzheimer's disease is a neocortical' disconnection syndrome' in which there is a loss of structural and functional integrity of long corticocortical tracts. The findings further suggest that the vascular disease of MID most prominently affects broad fibre networks that may be more vulnerable to diffuse subcortical vascular damage. A ratio of coherence from complex corticocortical-corticosubcortical networks divided by coherence from long corticocortical tracts correctly classified 76% of subjects into DAT and MID categories. Overall, these results indicate that EEG coherence detects basic pathophysiological differences between subjects with DAT and MID, and that these differences may be clinically useful.