Voxel-based morphometry (VBM) is a useful approach for investigating neurostructural brain changes in dementia. We systematically reviewed VBM studies of Alzheimer's disease (AD) and mild cognitive impairment (MCI), specifically focusing on grey matter (GM) atrophy in the frontal lobe.
Two searches were performed on the Pubmed database. A set of exclusion criteria was applied to ensure the selection of only VBM studies that directly investigated GM volume abnormalities in AD and/or MCI patients compared to cognitively normal controls.
From a total of 46 selected articles, 35 VBM studies reported GM volume reductions in the frontal lobe. The frontal subregions, where most of the volume reductions were reported, included the inferior, superior and middle frontal gyri, as well as the anterior cingulate gyrus. We also found studies in which reduced frontal GM was detected in MCI patients who converted to AD. In a minority of studies, correlations between frontal GM volumes and behavioural changes or cognitive deficits in AD patients were investigated, with variable findings.
Results of VBM studies indicate that the frontal lobe should be regarded as an important brain area when investigating GM volume deficits in association with AD. Frontal GM loss might not be a feature specific to late AD only. Future VBM studies involving large AD samples are warranted to further investigate correlations between frontal volume deficits and both cognitive impairment and neuropsychiatric symptoms.
Alzheimer's disease; mild cognitive impairment; voxel-based morphometry; frontal lobe