Seeing beyond the symptoms: biomarkers and brain regions linked to cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease

Congratulations Dr. Abbas Babajani-Feremi on the publication of “Seeing beyond the symptoms: biomarkers and brain regions linked to cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease,” which appears in the May 15th edition of Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.



Early Alzheimer’s disease (AD) diagnosis remains challenging, necessitating specific biomarkers for timely detection. This study aimed to identify such biomarkers and explore their associations with cognitive decline.


A cohort of 1759 individuals across cognitive aging stages, including healthy controls (HC), mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and AD, was examined. Utilizing nine biomarkers from structural MRI (sMRI), diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), and positron emission tomography (PET), predictions were made for Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), Clinical Dementia Rating Scale Sum of Boxes (CDRSB), and Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale-Cognitive Subscale (ADAS). Biomarkers included four sMRI (e.g., average thickness [ATH]), four DTI (e.g., mean diffusivity [MD]), and one PET Amyloid-β (Aβ) measure. Ensemble regression tree (ERT) technique with bagging and random forest approaches were applied in four groups (HC/MCI, HC/AD, MCI/AD, and HC/MCI/AD).


Aβ emerged as a robust predictor of cognitive scores, particularly in late-stage AD. Volumetric measures, notably ATH, consistently correlated with cognitive scores across early and late disease stages. Additionally, ADAS demonstrated links to various neuroimaging biomarkers in all subject groups, highlighting its efficacy in monitoring brain changes throughout disease progression. ERT identified key brain regions associated with cognitive scores, such as the right transverse temporal region for Aβ, left and right entorhinal cortex, left inferior temporal gyrus, and left middle temporal gyrus for ATH, and the left uncinate fasciculus for MD.


This study underscores the importance of an interdisciplinary approach in understanding AD mechanisms, offering potential contributions to early biomarker development.