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Within-patient correspondence of amyloid-β and intrinsic network connectivity in Alzheimer’s disease

Nicholas Myers, Lorenzo Pasquini, Jens Göttler, Timo Grimmer, Kathrin Koch, Marion Ortner, Julia Neitzel, Mark Mühlau, Stefan Förster, Alexander Kurz, Hans Förstl, Claus Zimmer, Afra M. Wohlschläger, Valentin Riedl, Alexander Drzezga, Christian Sorg
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/brain/awu103 2052-2064 First published online: 26 April 2014


There is striking overlap between the spatial distribution of amyloid-β pathology in patients with Alzheimer’s disease and the spatial distribution of high intrinsic functional connectivity in healthy persons. This overlap suggests a mechanistic link between amyloid-β and intrinsic connectivity, and indeed there is evidence in patients for the detrimental effects of amyloid-β plaque accumulation on intrinsic connectivity in areas of high connectivity in heteromodal hubs, and particularly in the default mode network. However, the observed spatial extent of amyloid-β exceeds these tightly circumscribed areas, suggesting that previous studies may have underestimated the negative impact of amyloid-β on intrinsic connectivity. We hypothesized that the known positive baseline correlation between patterns of amyloid-β and intrinsic connectivity may mask the larger extent of the negative effects of amyloid-β on connectivity. Crucially, a test of this hypothesis requires the within-patient comparison of intrinsic connectivity and amyloid-β distributions. Here we compared spatial patterns of amyloid-β-plaques (measured by Pittsburgh compound B positron emission tomography) and intrinsic functional connectivity (measured by resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging) in patients with prodromal Alzheimer’s disease via spatial correlations in intrinsic networks covering fronto-parietal heteromodal cortices. At the global network level, we found that amyloid-β and intrinsic connectivity patterns were positively correlated in the default mode and several fronto-parietal attention networks, confirming that amyloid-β aggregates in areas of high intrinsic connectivity on a within-network basis. Further, we saw an internetwork gradient of the magnitude of correlation that depended on network plaque-load. After accounting for this globally positive correlation, local amyloid-β-plaque concentration in regions of high connectivity co-varied negatively with intrinsic connectivity, indicating that amyloid-β pathology adversely reduces connectivity anywhere in an affected network as a function of local amyloid-β-plaque concentration. The local negative association between amyloid-β and intrinsic connectivity was much more pronounced than conventional group comparisons of intrinsic connectivity would suggest. Our findings indicate that the negative impact of amyloid-β on intrinsic connectivity in heteromodal networks is underestimated by conventional analyses. Moreover, our results provide first within-patient evidence for correspondent patterns of amyloid-β and intrinsic connectivity, with the distribution of amyloid-β pathology following functional connectivity gradients within and across intrinsic networks.

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • amyloid-β plaques
  • intrinsic connectivity
  • resting-state functional MRI
  • PiB-PET
  • Abbreviations
    attention network
    default mode network
    Pittsburgh compound B
  • This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/), which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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