Atypical Alzheimer’s disease phenotypes with normal or borderline PET biomarker profiles

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Posterior cortical atrophy (PCA) and logopenic progressive aphasia (LPA) are clinical syndromes that commonly have underlying Alzheimer’s disease (AD), although non-AD pathologies have also been reported. PET imaging allows for identification of beta-amyloid (Aβ) and tau in AD, so we aimed to assess these in a large cohort to identify patients that do not have evidence for biomarker-defined AD. Eight-one patients, 47 PCA and 34 LPA, underwent extensive neurological and neuropsychological testing, [11C] Pittsburgh compound B, [18F] flortaucipir and [18F] fluorodeoxyglucose PETs. Global Aβ and tau-PET standardized uptake value ratios (SUVRs) were plotted for all patients and outliers, and patients with abnormally low SUVRs compared to the biomarker-classic cohort were identified. Six (7.4%) biomarker-outlier cases were identified, and three patterns were observed: (i) negative/borderline Aβ-PET and striking widespread tau-PET uptake (two LPA); (ii) negative/borderline Aβ-PET and low tau-PET uptake (three PCA) and (iii) elevated Aβ-PET uptake but mild focal tau-PET uptake (one LPA). Among the unusual patients in group ii, two patients showed no abnormal tau uptake suggesting non-AD pathology, with one developing features of cortico-basal syndrome and the other dementia with Lewy bodies. The remaining patient showed very mild focal tau uptake. This study demonstrates that a small minority (~ 8%) of PCA and LPA patients do not show the typical striking patterns of Aβ and tau PET uptake, with only 2% showing absence of both proteins. These findings will help inform the use of molecular PET in clinical treatment trials that include patients with atypical phenotypes of AD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6613-6626
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Neurology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Abnormal Aβ-PET uptake
  • Abnormal tau-PET uptake
  • Logopenic progressive aphasia
  • Posterior cortical atrophy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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