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Data-driven detection of latent atrophy factors related to phenotypical variants of posterior cortical atrophy

By Colin Groot, B. T.T. Yeo, Jacob W Vogel, Xiuming Zhang, Nanbo Sun, Elizabeth C Mormino, Yolande A.L. Pijnenburg, Bruce L. Miller, Howard J. Rosen, Renaud La Joie, Frederik Barkhof, Philip Scheltens, Wiesje M van der Flier, Gil D. Rabinovici, Rik Ossenkoppele

Posted 24 Jun 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/679225

Posterior cortical atrophy is a clinical-radiological syndrome characterized by visual processing deficits and atrophy in posterior parts of the brain, most often caused by Alzheimers disease pathology. Recent consensus criteria describe four distinct phenotypical variants of posterior cortical atrophy defined by clinical and radiological features; i) object perception/occipitotemporal (ventral), ii) space perception/temporoparietal (dorsal), iii) non-visual/dominant parietal and iv) primary visual (caudal). We employed a data-driven approach to identify atrophy factors related to these proposed variants in a multi-center cohort of 119 individuals with posterior cortical atrophy (age: 64 SD 7, 38% male, MMSE: 21 SD 5, 71% amyloid-B positive, 29% amyloid-B status unknown). A Bayesian modelling framework based on latent Dirichlet allocation was used to compute four latent atrophy factors in accordance with the four proposed variants. The model uses standardized gray matter density images as input (adjusted for age, sex, intracranial volume, field strength and whole-brain gray matter volume) and provides voxelwise probabilistic maps for all atrophy factors, allowing every individual to express each factor to a degree without a priori classification. The model revealed four distinct yet partially overlapping atrophy factors; right-dorsal, right-ventral, left-ventral, and limbic. Individual participant profiles revealed that the vast majority of participants expressed multiple factors, rather than predominantly expressing a single factor. To assess the relationship between atrophy factors and cognition, neuropsychological test scores covering four posterior cortical atrophy-specific cognitive domains were assessed (object perception, space perception, non-visual parietal functions and primary visual processing) and we used general linear models to examine the association between atrophy factor expression and cognition. We found that object perception and primary visual processing were associated with atrophy that predominantly reflects the right-ventral factor. Furthermore, space perception was associated with atrophy that predominantly represents the right-ventral and right-dorsal factors. Similar to the atrophy factors, most participants had mixed clinical profiles with impairments across multiple domains. However, when selecting four participants with an isolated impairment, we observed atrophy patterns and factor expressions that were largely in accordance with the hypothesized variants. Taken together, our results indicate that variants of posterior cortical atrophy exist but these constitute phenotypical extremes and most individuals fall along a broad clinical-radiological spectrum, indicating that classification into four mutually exclusive variants is unlikely to be clinically useful.

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