This study aims to evaluate the relation between a cluster of neuropsychiatric symptoms related to cholinergic deficiency and degradation of the cortical cholinergic projections which project from the nucleus basalis of Meynert to the cerebral cortex. An atlas of the pathway from the nucleus basalis to the cortex (NbM cortical pathway) was constructed using diffusion tensor imaging and tractography in 87 memory clinic patients. Structural degradation was considered to be represented by lower fractional anisotropy (FA) and higher mean diffusivity (MD). Neuropsychiatric symptoms were assessed using the Neuropsychiatric Inventory. A predefined cluster including agitation, anxiety, apathy, delusions, hallucinations, and irritability was labeled as the cholinergic deficiency syndrome (CDS). In regression analyses, lower FA and higher MD in the NbM cortical pathway were associated with CDS symptoms but not with other neuropsychiatric symptoms. These associations were independent of cerebral atrophy and overall FA or MD. There was no association between interruption of the NbM cortical pathway by white matter hyperintensities and CDS symptoms. Cox regression suggested a trend for higher mortality with lower FA in the NbM cortical pathway may exist. These findings provide anatomical support for the hypothesis that degradation of the cholinergic projections from the nucleus basalis of Meynert may lead to a distinct clinical syndrome. Future studies could use our results to test the utility of assessing NbM projection integrity to identify patients who may benefit from cholinergic treatment or with a worse prognosis.
Brain Imaging and Behavior – Springer Journals
Published: Oct 27, 2016
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