18F–FDG PET diagnostic and prognostic patterns do not overlap in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) patients at the mild cognitive impairment (MCI) stage
An emerging issue in neuroimaging is to assess the diagnostic reliability of PET and its application in clinical practice. We aimed at assessing the accuracy of brain FDG-PET in discriminating patients with MCI due to Alzheimer's disease and healthy controls. Sixty-two patients with amnestic MCI and 109 healthy subjects recruited in five centers of the European AD Consortium were enrolled. Group analysis was performed by SPM8 to confirm metabolic differences. Discriminant analyses were then carried out using the mean FDG uptake values normalized to the cerebellum computed in 45 anatomical volumes of interest (VOIs) in each hemisphere (90 VOIs) as defined in the Automated Anatomical Labeling (AAL) Atlas and on 12 meta-VOIs, bilaterally, obtained merging VOIs with similar anatomo-functional characteristics. Further, asymmetry indexes were calculated for both datasets. Accuracy of discrimination by a Support Vector Machine and the AAL VOIs was tested against a validated method (PALZ). At the voxel level SMP8 showed a relative hypometabolism in the bilateral precuneus, and posterior cingulate, temporo-parietal and frontal cortices. Discriminant analysis classified subjects with an accuracy ranging between .91 and .83 as a function of data organization. The best values were obtained from a subset of 6 meta-VOIs plus 6 asymmetry values reaching an area under the ROC curve of .947, significantly larger than the one obtained by the PALZ score. High accuracy in discriminating MCI converters from healthy controls was reached by a non-linear classifier based on SVM applied on predefined anatomo-functional regions and inter-hemispheric asymmetries. Data pre-processing was automated and simplified by an in-house created Matlab-based script encouraging its routine clinical use. Further validation toward nonconverter MCI patients with adequately long follow-up is needed.