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In Frontiers in neuroscience ; h5-index 72.0

Objective : Neuromelanin-sensitive magnetic resonance imaging (NM-MRI) technique was used to detect the changes of the locus coeruleus (LC) signals in Alzheimer's disease patients (AD), and to analyze its correlation with cognitive function.

Materials and methods : A total of 27 patients with AD, 15 patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and 25 healthy controls (HC) were examined by NM-MRI technique. ImageJ software was used to measure the LC signals. The locus coeruleus signal contrast ratios (LC-CRs) were calculated, along with the measurement of neuropsychological scales.

Results : The LC-CRs of AD patients were significantly different from that of HC (p = 0.007, 95% CI: -0.053∼-0.007). However, such significant differences were not observed between MCI and HC (p = 1.000, 95% CI: -0.030∼0.024), AD and MCI (p = 0.050, 95% CI: -0.054∼0.000). Furthermore, a significant positive correlation was identified between LC-CRs and MMSE sub item Drawing (r = 0.484, p = 0.011) in the AD group, MoCA sub item Attention (r = 0.519, p = 0.047) in the MCI group. The area under the curve of LC-CRs in the diagnosis of AD was 0.749 (p = 0.002, 95% CI: 0.618∼0.880), with a sensitivity of 85.2% and a specificity of 56.0%.

Conclusion : The NM-MRI technique could quantify the pathological degenerations of the LC in AD. Such LC degenerations can be employed to distinguish AD from healthy elderly.

Li Meng, Liu Shanwen, Zhu Hongqin, Guo Zhiwen, Zhi Yuqi, Liu Rong, Jiang Zhen, Liang Xiaoyun, Hu Hua, Zhu Jiangtao


Alzheimer’s disease, MRI, cognition, locus coeruleus, neuromelanin