Default mode network failure and neurodegeneration across aging and amnestic and dysexecutive Alzheimer's disease

Nick Corriveau-Lecavalier, Jeffrey L. Gunter, Michael Kamykowski, Ellen Dicks, Hugo Botha, Walter K. Kremers, Jonathan Graff-Radford, Daniela A. Wiepert, Christopher G. Schwarz, Essa Yacoub, David S. Knopman, Bradley F. Boeve, Kamil Ugurbil, Ronald C. Petersen, Clifford R. Jack, Melissa J. Terpstra, David T. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


From a complex systems perspective, clinical syndromes emerging from neurodegenerative diseases are thought to result from multiscale interactions between aggregates of misfolded proteins and the disequilibrium of large-scale networks coordinating functional operations underpinning cognitive phenomena. Across all syndromic presentations of Alzheimer's disease, age-related disruption of the default mode network is accelerated by amyloid deposition. Conversely, syndromic variability may reflect selective neurodegeneration of modular networks supporting specific cognitive abilities. In this study, we leveraged the breadth of the Human Connectome Project-Aging cohort of non-demented individuals (N = 724) as a normative cohort to assess the robustness of a biomarker of default mode network dysfunction in Alzheimer's disease, the network failure quotient, across the aging spectrum. We then examined the capacity of the network failure quotient and focal markers of neurodegeneration to discriminate patients with amnestic (N = 8) or dysexecutive (N = 10) Alzheimer's disease from the normative cohort at the patient level, as well as between Alzheimer's disease phenotypes. Importantly, all participants and patients were scanned using the Human Connectome Project-Aging protocol, allowing for the acquisition of high-resolution structural imaging and longer resting-state connectivity acquisition time. Using a regression framework, we found that the network failure quotient related to age, global and focal cortical thickness, hippocampal volume, and cognition in the normative Human Connectome Project-Aging cohort, replicating previous results from the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging that used a different scanning protocol. Then, we used quantile curves and group-wise comparisons to show that the network failure quotient commonly distinguished both dysexecutive and amnestic Alzheimer's disease patients from the normative cohort. In contrast, focal neurodegeneration markers were more phenotype-specific, where the neurodegeneration of parieto-frontal areas associated with dysexecutive Alzheimer's disease, while the neurodegeneration of hippocampal and temporal areas associated with amnestic Alzheimer's disease. Capitalizing on a large normative cohort and optimized imaging acquisition protocols, we highlight a biomarker of default mode network failure reflecting shared system-level pathophysiological mechanisms across aging and dysexecutive and amnestic Alzheimer's disease and biomarkers of focal neurodegeneration reflecting distinct pathognomonic processes across the amnestic and dysexecutive Alzheimer's disease phenotypes. These findings provide evidence that variability in inter-individual cognitive impairment in Alzheimer's disease may relate to both modular network degeneration and default mode network disruption. These results provide important information to advance complex systems approaches to cognitive aging and degeneration, expand the armamentarium of biomarkers available to aid diagnosis, monitor progression and inform clinical trials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberfcad058
JournalBrain Communications
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2023


  • Human Connectome Project-Aging
  • dysexecutive Alzheimer's disease
  • functional magnetic resonance imaging
  • network biomarkers
  • network failure quotient

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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