Patients with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) not converted to dementia at one to three years follow-up represent a heterogeneous group across studies, by including late converters but also patients without any neurodegenerative disease. We tested the hypothesis that the combination of memory and brain metabolic assessment could identify subgroups of memory decliners (MCI/Decl) and non-decliners (MCI/noDecl) before a long follow-up time is available. From twenty-nine patients with amnestic MCI (aMCI) at baseline, three groups were identified at follow-up: 10 patients who converted to AD (MCI/AD); 10 patients either showing episodic memory worsening or reaching the floor effect on memory and declining in other key tests (MCI/Decl) and 9 patients showing no memory worsening or even improvement (MCI/noDecl). They were compared with a group of fourteen elderly controls (CTR) by means of basal FDG-PET voxel-based analysis (SPM2). Two hypometabolic clusters were found in MCI/AD versus CTR, including the bilateral posterior cingulate cortex, the left parietal precuneus and the left fusiform gyrus. MCI/AD showed also a large hypometabolic region, mainly including the left medium and superior temporal gyri and inferior parietal lobule, when compared to MCI/noDecl. The MCI/Decl showed a hypometabolic region in the left medial temporal lobe versus both CTR (hippocampus) and MCI/noDecl (parahippocampal gyrus and hippocampus). No significant difference was found in the comparison between CTR and MCI/noDecl, neither in the comparison between MCI/Decl and MCI/AD. Thus, non converter MCI patients comprised a sub-group of decliners with AD-like metabolic and cognitive patterns, likely including late converters, and a sub-group lacking this pattern, with stable or improving memory function and a brain metabolic picture similar to that in healthy controls. Combining neuropsychological and FDG-PET information could be used for prognostic purposes in aMCI patients at medium-term follow-up.
MCI patients Declining and not-declining at mid-term follow-up: FDG-PET findings