T2 heterogeneity: A novel marker of microstructural integrity associated with cognitive decline in people with mild cognitive impairment

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Abstract

Background: Early Alzheimer's disease (AD) diagnosis is vital for development of disease-modifying therapies. Prior to significant brain tissue atrophy, several microstructural changes take place as a result of Alzheimer's pathology. These include deposition of amyloid, tau and iron, as well as altered water homeostasis in tissue and some cell death. T2 relaxation time, a quantitative MRI measure, is sensitive to these changes and may be a useful non-invasive, early marker of tissue integrity which could predict conversion to dementia. We propose that different microstructural changes affect T2 in opposing ways, such that average 'midpoint' measures of T2 are less sensitive than measuring distribution width (heterogeneity). T2 heterogeneity in the brain may present a sensitive early marker of AD pathology. Methods: In this cohort study, we tested 97 healthy older controls, 49 people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and 10 with a clinical diagnosis of AD. All participants underwent structural MRI including a multi-echo sequence for quantitative T2 assessment. Cognitive change over 1 year was assessed in 20 participants with MCI. T2 distributions were modelled in the hippocampus and thalamus using log-logistic distribution giving measures of log-median value (midpoint; T2μ) and distribution width (heterogeneity; T2σ). Results: We show an increase in T2 heterogeneity (T2σ; p

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Wearn, A. R., Nurdal, V., Saunders-Jennings, E., Knight, M. J., Isotalus, H. K., Dillon, S., … Coulthard, E. J. (2020). T2 heterogeneity: A novel marker of microstructural integrity associated with cognitive decline in people with mild cognitive impairment. Alzheimer’s Research and Therapy, 12(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13195-020-00672-9

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