Patterns of Cerebellar Gray Matter Atrophy Across Alzheimer's Disease Progression.
Toniolo S., Serra L., Olivito G., Marra C., Bozzali M., Cercignani M.
The role of the cerebellum in cognitive function has been broadly investigated in the last decades from an anatomical, clinical, and functional point of view and new evidence points toward a significant contribution of the posterior lobes of the cerebellum in cognition in Alzheimer's disease (AD). In the present work we used SUIT-VBM (spatially unbiased infratentorial template, voxel-based morphometry) to perform an analysis of the pattern of cerebellar gray matter (GM) atrophy in amnestic mild cognitive impairment (a-MCI) and AD dementia patients compared to healthy subjects (HS), in order to follow the changes of non-motor features of cerebellar degeneration throughout disease progression. This template has been validated to guarantee a significant improvement in voxel-to-voxel alignment of the individual fissures and the deep cerebellar nuclei compared to Montreal Neurological Institute (MNI) whole-brain template. Our analysis shows a progression of cerebellar GM volume changes throughout a continuous spectrum from early to late clinical stages of AD. In particular vermis and paravermian areas of the anterior (I-V) and posterior (VI) lobes are involved since the a-MCI stage, with a later involvement of the hemispheric part of the posterior lobes (VI lobule) and Crus I in AD dementia patients only. These findings support the role of the cerebellum in higher-level functions, and whilst confirming previous data on the involvement of Crus I in AD dementia, provide new evidence of an involvement of the vermis in the early stages of the disease.