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Executive Dysfunction in Mild Cognitive Impairment is Associated with Changes in Frontal and Cingulate White Matter Tracts


Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) may affect multiple neuropsychological domains. While amnestic MCI is associated with Alzheimer's disease, patterns of brain pathology in non-amnestic subtypes have been less studied. Twenty-three patients with attention/executive MCI (a/e MCI), seen at a university-based memory clinic, and 23 normal controls, matched according to age, gender, and education, were included in this study. All subjects were assessed with a neuropsychological test battery, including tests of memory, attention and executive function, and underwent magnetic resonance imaging. Diffusion tensor imaging derived white matter (WM) tract radial and mean diffusivity (DR and MD) were assessed using Tract-Based Spatial Statistics, and cortical thickness (CTH) was assessed using FreeSurfer. This study investigated changes of WM DR/MD and CTH in subjects with a/e MCI, and associations between these changes and different a/e subfunctions. WM DR/MD underlying rostral middle frontal, medial orbitofrontal, caudal anterior cingulate, posterior cingulate, retrosplenial and entorhinal cortices was higher for the a/e MCI than the control group, but CTH was not different from controls in any of the regions. WM DR/MD underlying superior frontal, rostral middle frontal, lateral/medial orbitofrontal and retrosplenial cortices were significantly associated with inhibition/switching performance, while caudal middle frontal CTH was significantly associated with attention and divided attention in the patient group. We conclude that increased WM DR/MD in frontal and cingulate regions and cortical thinning in caudal middle frontal region are both associated with executive dysfunction in MCI.