Diffusion imaging markers of accelerated aging of the lower cingulum in subjective cognitive decline

Ryn Flaherty, Yu Veronica Sui, Arjun V. Masurkar, Rebecca A. Betensky, Henry Rusinek, Mariana Lazar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) typically starts in the medial temporal lobe, then develops into a neurodegenerative cascade which spreads to other brain regions. People with subjective cognitive decline (SCD) are more likely to develop dementia, especially in the presence of amyloid pathology. Thus, we were interested in the white matter microstructure of the medial temporal lobe in SCD, specifically the lower cingulum bundle that leads into the hippocampus. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) has been shown to differentiate SCD participants who will progress to mild cognitive impairment from those who will not. However, the biology underlying these DTI metrics is unclear, and results in the medial temporal lobe have been inconsistent. Methods: To better characterize the microstructure of this region, we applied DTI to cognitively normal participants in the Cam-CAN database over the age of 55 with cognitive testing and diffusion MRI available (N = 325, 127 SCD). Diffusion MRI was processed to generate regional and voxel-wise diffusion tensor values in bilateral lower cingulum white matter, while T1-weighted MRI was processed to generate regional volume and cortical thickness in the medial temporal lobe white matter, entorhinal cortex, temporal pole, and hippocampus. Results: SCD participants had thinner cortex in bilateral entorhinal cortex and right temporal pole. No between-group differences were noted for any of the microstructural metrics of the lower cingulum. However, correlations with delayed story recall were significant for all diffusion microstructure metrics in the right lower cingulum in SCD, but not in controls, with a significant interaction effect. Additionally, the SCD group showed an accelerated aging effect in bilateral lower cingulum with MD, AxD, and RD. Discussion: The diffusion profiles observed in both interaction effects are suggestive of a mixed neuroinflammatory and neurodegenerative pathology. Left entorhinal cortical thinning correlated with decreased FA and increased RD, suggestive of demyelination. However, right entorhinal cortical thinning also correlated with increased AxD, suggestive of a mixed pathology. This may reflect combined pathologies implicated in early AD. DTI was more sensitive than cortical thickness to the associations between SCD, memory, and age. The combined effects of mixed pathology may increase the sensitivity of DTI metrics to variations with age and cognition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1360273
JournalFrontiers in Neurology
StatePublished - 2024


  • aging
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • diffusion tensor imaging
  • magnetic resonance imaging
  • subjective cognitive decline

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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