Development, validation and application of a new fornix template for studies of aging and preclinical Alzheimer's disease

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Abstract

We developed a merged younger-older adult template of the fornix and demonstrated its utility for studies of aging and preclinical Alzheimer's disease (AD). In Experiment 1, probabilistic tractography was used to reconstruct the fornix in younger and older adults and successful streamlines were then averaged to create a merged template in standard space. The new template includes the majority of the fornix from the hippocampal formation to the subcallosal region and the thalamus/hypothalamus. In Experiment 2, the merged template was validated as an appropriate measure for studies of aging, with comparisons against manual tracing measures indicating identical spatial coverage in younger and older adult groups. In Experiment 3, the merged template was found to outperform age-specific templates in measures of sensitivity and specificity computed on diffusion tensor imaging data of an independent participant cohort. In Experiment 4, relevance to preclinical AD was demonstrated via associations between fractional anisotropy within the new fornix template and cerebrospinal fluid markers of AD pathology (Aβ42 and the t-tau/Aβ42 ratio) in a third independent cohort of cognitively normal older adults. Our new template provides an appropriate measure for use in future studies seeking to characterize microstructural alterations in the fornix associated with aging and preclinical AD.

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Brown, C. A., Johnson, N. F., Anderson-Mooney, A. J., Jicha, G. A., Shaw, L. M., Trojanowski, J. Q., … Gold, B. T. (2017). Development, validation and application of a new fornix template for studies of aging and preclinical Alzheimer’s disease. NeuroImage: Clinical, 13, 106–115. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nicl.2016.11.024

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