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PLOS ONE  2012 

Functional Disconnection and Compensation in Mild Cognitive Impairment: Evidence from DLPFC Connectivity Using Resting-State fMRI

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0022153

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Abstract:

The known regional abnormality of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and its role in various neural circuits in mild cognitive impairment (MCI) has given prominence to its importance in studies on the disconnection associated with MCI. The purpose of the current study was to examine the DLPFC functional connectivity patterns during rest in MCI patients and the impact of regional grey matter (GM) atrophy on the functional results. Structural and functional MRI data were collected from 14 MCI patients and 14 age, gender-matched healthy controls. We found that both the bilateral DLPFC showed reduced functional connectivity with the inferior parietal lobule (IPL), superior/medial frontal gyrus and sub-cortical regions (e.g., thalamus, putamen) in MCI patients when compared with healthy controls. Moreover, the DLPFC connectivity with the IPL and thalamus significantly correlated with the cognitive performance of patients as measured by mini-mental state examination (MMSE), clock drawing test (CDT), and California verbal learning test (CVLT) scores. When taking GM atrophy as covariates, these results were approximately consistent with those without correction, although there may be a decrease in the statistical power. These results suggest that the DLPFC disconnections may be the substrates of cognitive impairments in MCI patients. In addition, we also found enhanced functional connectivity between the left DLPFC and the right prefrontal cortex in MCI patients. This is consistent with previous findings of MCI-related increased activation during cognitive tasks, and may represent a compensatory mechanism in MCI patients. Together, the present study demonstrated the coexistence of functional disconnection and compensation in MCI patients using DLPFC functional connectivity analysis, and thus might provide insights into biological mechanism of the disease.

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