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Projection to Latent Spaces disentangles pathological effects on brain morphology in the asymptomatic phase of Alzheimer’s disease

Adrià Casamitjana, Paula Petrone, José Luis Molinuevo, Juan Domingo Gispert, Verónica Vilaplana


Alzheimer's disease (AD) continuum is defined as a cascade of several neuropathological processes that can be measured using biomarkers, such as cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) levels of Aβ, p-tau, and t-tau. In parallel, brain anatomy can be characterized through imaging techniques, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). In this work we relate both sets of measurements and seek associations between biomarkers and the brain structure that can be indicative of AD progression. The goal is to uncover underlying multivariate effects of AD pathology on regional brain morphological information. For this purpose, we used the projection to latent structures (PLS) method. Using PLS, we found a low dimensional latent space that best describes the covariance between both sets of measurements on the same subjects. Possible confounder effects (age and sex) on brain morphology are included in the model and regressed out using an orthogonal PLS model. We looked for statistically significant correlations between brain morphology and CSF biomarkers that explain part of the volumetric variance at each region-of-interest (ROI). Furthermore, we used a clustering technique to discover a small set of CSF-related patterns describing the AD continuum. We applied this technique to the study of subjects in the whole AD continuum, from the pre-clinical asymptomatic stages all the way through to the symptomatic groups. Subsequent analyses involved splitting the course of the disease into diagnostic categories: cognitively unimpaired subjects (CU), mild cognitively impaired subjects (MCI), and subjects with dementia (AD-dementia), where all symptoms were due to AD.

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Casamitjana A, Petrone P, Molinuevo JL, Gispert JD, Vilaplana V. Projection to Latent Spaces Disentangles Pathological Effects on Brain Morphology in the Asymptomatic Phase of Alzheimer's Disease. Front Neurol. 2020 Jul 28;11:648. doi: 10.3389/fneur.2020.00648. PMID: 32849173; PMCID: PMC7399334.