Cortical Thickness and Surface Area Networks in Healthy Aging, Alzheimer’s Disease and Behavioral Variant Fronto-Temporal Dementia

Vesna Vuksanovic* (Corresponding Author), Roger T Staff, Trevor Ahearn, Alison D Murray, Claude M Wischik

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)
20 Downloads (Pure)


Models of the human brain as a complex network of inter-connected sub-units are important in helping to understand the structural basis of the clinical features of neurodegenerative disorders. The aim of this study was to characterise in a systematic manner the differences in the structural correlation networks in cortical thickness (CT) and surface area (SA) in Alzheimer's disease (AD) and behavioural variant Fronto-Temporal Dementia (bvFTD). We have used the baseline magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data available from a large population of patients from three clinical trials in mild to moderate AD and mild bvFTD and compared this to a well characterized healthy aging cohort. The study population comprised 202 healthy elderly subjects, 213 with bvFTD and 213 with AD. We report that both CT and SA network architecture can be described in terms of highly correlated networks whose positive and inverse links map onto the intrinsic modular organization of the four cortical lobes. The topology of the disturbance in structural network is different in the two disease conditions, and both are different from normal aging. The changes from normal are global in character and are not restricted to fronto-temporal and temporo-parietal lobes respectively in bvFTD and AD and indicate an increase in both global correlational strength and in particular non-homologous inter-lobar connectivity defined by inverse correlations. These inverse correlations appear to be adaptive in character, reflecting coordinated increases in CT and SA that may compensate for corresponding impairment in functionally linked nodes. The effects were more pronounced in the cortical thickness atrophy network in bvFTD and in the surface area network in AD. Although lobar modularity is preserved in the context of neurodegenerative disease, the hub-like organization of networks
differs both from normal and between the two forms of dementia. This implies that hubs may be secondary features of the connectivity adaptation to neurodegeneration and may not be an intrinsic property of the brain. However, analysis of the topological differences in hub-like organization CT and SA networks, and their underlying positive and negative correlations, may provide a basis for assisting in the differential diagnosis of bvFTD and AD.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1850055
Number of pages26
JournalInternational Journal of Neural Systems
Issue number6
Early online date8 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jan 2019

Bibliographical note

We would like to acknowledge the support of the Maxwell compute cluster funded by the University of Aberdeen. We also gratefully acknowledge study investigators and the generosity of study participants.


  • Structural correlation networks
  • behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia
  • Alzheimer's disease


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