The medial temporal lobe, especially the hippocampus, is important for normal cognitive function, especially for memory, and is the region with the earliest and most extensive pathological changes in Alzheimer's disease (AD). We investigated the atrophic changes of the hippocampus over a 5-year period and its relation to cognitive screening test performances in normal elderly subjects, those with very mild AD, and patients with AD. Fifty-seven elderly subjects without a moderate or greater degree of cerebrovascular disease as shown by MRI were randomly selected from the town of Tajiri. Thirty-three subjects with a clinical dementia rating (CDR) of 0 (normal), 18 CDR-0.5 (very mild AD) subjects, and six CDR-1&2 (AD) subjects underwent MRI and the Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE) twice during the period. Retrospective changes in the hippocampal width and the MMSE scores were evaluated. There were significant CDR group effects for the changes in the mean bilateral hippocampal widths and the MMSE scores. Normal subjects did not show cognitive decline, although there was a slight tendency for hippocampal atrophy. A significant and meaningful Spearman's correlation was noted between left hippocampal atrophy and the MMSE scores over the 5-year period for the CDR-0.5 group. These CDR-0.5 subjects met the MCI (mild cognitive impairment) criteria as proposed by the consensus paper. Findings suggested that normal elderly subjects maintain a high level of cognitive functions for at least 5 years, although hippocampal atrophy might occur. Atrophic change of the left hippocampus might be a good marker of the very early stage of AD.
- Alzheimer's disease