Planning in amnestic mild cognitive impairment: an fMRI study

Nena Lejko*, Shankar Tumati, Esther M. Opmeer, Jan-Bernard C. Marsman, Fransje E. Reesink, Peter P. De Deyn, Andre Aleman, Branislava Curcic-Blake

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Introduction: The memory impairment that is characteristic of amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI) is often accompanied by difficulties in executive functioning, including planning. Though planning deficits in aMCI are well documented, their neural correlates are largely unknown, and have not yet been investigated with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

Objectives: The aim of this study was to: (1) identify differences in brain activity and connectivity during planning between people with aMCI and cognitively healthy older adults, and (2) find whether planning-related activity and connectivity are associated with cognitive performance and symptoms of apathy.

Methods: Twenty-five people with aMCI and 15 cognitively healthy older adults performed a visuospatial planning task (Tower of London; ToL) during fMRI. Task-related brain activation, spatial maps of task-related independent components, and seed-to-voxel functional connectivity were compared between the two groups and regressed against measures of executive functions (Trail Making Test difference score, TMT B-A; Digit Symbol Substitution Test, DSST), delayed recall (Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test), and apathy (Apathy Evaluation Scale).

Results: People with aMCI scored lower on task-switching (TMT B-A), working memory (DSST), and planning (ToL). During planning, people with aMCI had less activation in the bilateral anterior calcarine sulcus/cuneus, the bilateral temporal cortices, the left precentral gyrus, the thalamus, and the right cerebellum. Across all participants, higher planning-related activity in the supplementary motor area, the retrosplenial cortex and surrounding areas, and the right temporal cortex was related to better delayed recall. There were no betweengroup differences in functional connectivity, nor were there any associations between connectivity and cognition. We also did not find any associations between brain activity or connectivity and apathy.

Conclusion: Impaired planning in people with aMCI appears to be accompanied by lower activation in a diffuse cortico-thalamic network. Across all participants, higher planning-related activity in parieto-occipital, temporal, and frontal areas was related to better memory performance. The results point to the relevance of planning deficits for understanding aMCI and extend its clinical and neurobiological signature.

Original languageEnglish
Article number111673
Number of pages12
JournalExperimental Gerontology
Volume159
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar-2022

Keywords

  • Amnestic mild cognitive impairment
  • Tower of London
  • Planning
  • Problem-solving
  • Memory
  • fMRI
  • TOWER-OF-LONDON
  • POSTERIOR CINGULATE CORTEX
  • POSITRON-EMISSION-TOMOGRAPHY
  • EXECUTIVE FUNCTION DEFICITS
  • SUPPLEMENTARY MOTOR AREA
  • ALZHEIMERS-DISEASE
  • FUNCTIONAL CONNECTIVITY
  • NEUROPSYCHIATRIC SYMPTOMS
  • MEMORY DEFICITS
  • PREMOTOR CORTEX

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