Thalamic nuclei changes in early and late onset Alzheimer's disease
Curr Res Neurobiol. 2023 Mar 24;4:100084. doi: 10.1016/j.crneur.2023.100084. eCollection 2023.
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common cause of dementia worldwide. Increasing evidence points to the thalamus as an important hub in the clinical symptomatology of the disease, with the 'limbic thalamus' been described as especially vulnerable. In this work, we examined thalamic atrophy in early-onset AD (EOAD) and late-onset AD (LOAD) compared to young and old healthy controls (YHC and OHC, respectively) using a recently developed cutting-edge thalamic nuclei segmentation method. A deep learning variant of Thalamus Optimized Multi Atlas Segmentation (THOMAS) was used to parcellate 11 thalamic nuclei per hemisphere from T1-weighted MRI in 88 biomarker-confirmed AD patients (49 EOAD and 39 LOAD) and 58 healthy controls (41 YHC and 17 OHC) with normal AD biomarkers. Nuclei volumes were compared among groups using MANCOVA. Further, Pearson's correlation coefficient was computed between thalamic nuclear volume and cortical-subcortical regions, CSF tau levels, and neuropsychological scores. The results showed widespread thalamic nuclei atrophy in EOAD and LOAD compared to their respective healthy control groups, with EOAD showing additional atrophy in the centromedian and ventral lateral posterior nuclei compared to YHC. In EOAD, increased thalamic nuclei atrophy was associated with posterior parietal atrophy and worse visuospatial abilities, while LOAD thalamic nuclei atrophy was preferentially associated with medial temporal atrophy and worse episodic memory and executive function. Our findings suggest that thalamic nuclei may be differentially affected in AD according to the age at symptoms onset, associated with specific cortical-subcortical regions, CSF total tau and cognition.