Tau pathology distribution in Alzheimer's disease corresponds differentially to cognition-relevant functional brain networks

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Neuropathological studies have shown that the typical neurofibrillary pathology of hyperphosphorylated tau protein in Alzheimer's disease (AD) preferentially affects specific brain regions whereas others remain relatively spared. It has been suggested that the distinct regional distribution profile of tau pathology in AD may be a consequence of the intrinsic network structure of the human brain. The spatially distributed brain regions that are most affected by the spread of tau pathology may hence reflect an interconnected neuronal system. Here, we characterized the brain-wide regional distribution profile of tau pathology in AD using 18F-AV 1451 tau-sensitive positron emission tomography (PET) imaging, and studied this pattern in relation to the functional network organization of the human brain. Specifically, we quantified the spatial correspondence of the regional distribution pattern of PET-evidenced tau pathology in AD with functional brain networks characterized by large-scale resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rs-fMRI) data in healthy subjects. Regional distribution patterns of increased PET-evidenced tau pathology in AD compared to controls were characterized in two independent samples of prodromal and manifest AD cases (the Swedish BioFINDER study, n = 44; the ADNI study, n = 35). In the BioFINDER study we found that the typical AD tau pattern involved predominantly inferior, medial, and lateral temporal cortical areas, as well as the precuneus/posterior cingulate, and lateral parts of the parietal and occipital cortex. This pattern overlapped primarily with the dorsal attention, and to some extent with higher visual, limbic and parts of the default-mode network. PET-evidenced tau pathology in the ADNI replication sample, which represented a more prodromal group of AD cases, was less pronounced but showed a highly similar spatial distribution profile, suggesting an earlier-stage snapshot of a consistently progressing regional pattern. In conclusion, the present study indicates that the regional deposition of tau aggregates in AD predominantly affects higher-order cognitive over primary sensory-motor networks, but does not appear to be specific for the default-mode or related limbic networks.


Enheter & grupper
Externa organisationer
  • Skåne University Hospital
  • German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases
  • Göteborgs universitet

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ) – OBLIGATORISK

  • Neurologi


TidskriftFrontiers in Neuroscience
Utgåva nummerMAR
StatusPublished - 2017 mar 31
Peer review utfördJa