Identification of Heterogeneous Subtypes of Mild Cognitive Impairment Using Cluster Analyses Based on PET Imaging of Tau and Astrogliosis

Hyun Jeong Lee, Eun Chong Lee, Seongho Seo, Kwang Pil Ko, Jae Myeong Kang, Woo Ram Kim, Ha Eun Seo, Sang Yoon Lee, Yeong Bae Lee, Kee Hyung Park, Byeong Kil Yeon, Nobuyuki Okamura, Duk L. Na, Joon Kyung Seong, Young Noh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a condition with diverse causes and clinical outcomes that can be categorized into subtypes. [18F]THK5351 has been known to detect reactive astrogliosis as well as tau which is accompanied by neurodegenerative changes. Here, we identified heterogeneous groups of MCI patients using THK retention patterns and a graph theory approach, allowing for the comparison of risk of progression to dementia in these MCI subgroups. Methods: Ninety-seven participants including 60 MCI patients and individuals with normal cognition (NC, n = 37) were included and undertook 3T MRI, [18F]THK5351 PET, and detailed neuropsychological tests. [18F]Flutemetamol PET was also performed in 62 participants. We calculated similarities between MCI patients using their regional standardized uptake value ratio of THK retention in 75 ROIs, and clustered subjects with similar retention patterns using the Louvain method based on the modularity of the graph. The clusters of patients identified were compared with an age-matched control group using a general linear model. Dementia conversion was evaluated after a median follow-up duration of 34.6 months. Results: MCI patients were categorized into four groups according to their THK retention patterns: (1) limbic type; (2) diffuse type; (3) sparse type; and (4) AD type (retention pattern as in AD). Subjects of the limbic type were characterized by older age, small hippocampal volumes, and reduced verbal memory and frontal/executive functions. Patients of the diffuse type had relatively large vascular burden, reduced memory capacity and some frontal/executive functions. Co-morbidity and mortality were more frequent in this subgroup. Subjects of the sparse type were younger and declined only in terms of visual memory and attention. No individuals in this subgroup converted to dementia. Patients in the AD type group exhibited the poorest cognitive function. They also had the smallest hippocampal volumes and the highest risk of progression to dementia (90.9%). Conclusion: Using cluster analyses with [18F]THK5351 retention patterns, it is possible to identify clinically-distinct subgroups of MCI patients and those at greater risk of progression to dementia.

Original languageEnglish
Article number615467
JournalFrontiers in Aging Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Jan 26


  • THK
  • cluster analysis
  • mild cognitive impairment
  • positron emission tomography
  • tau

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ageing
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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