Posterior cortical atrophy: Primary occipital variant

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Background: Posterior cortical atrophy (PCA) is one of the atypical Alzheimer's disease variants, characterized by predominant visuospatial and visuoperceptual deficits, with established dorsal and ventral subtypes. A third primary occipital (caudal) variant has been suggested. We aimed to determine its demographics, clinical manifestations, and biomarker findings. Methods: Fifty-two PCA patients were investigated. Patients underwent neuropsychological assessment, magnetic resonance imaging, and fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG)-, amyloid-, and tau-positron emission tomography (tau-PET) scans. Normalized regional FDG-PET values were represented as z-scores relative to a control population. Patients were divided into “primary occipital” and “other PCA” subgroups according to FDG-PET-defined criteria, with primary occipital defined as patients in which the z-scores for occipital subregions were at least one standard deviation lower (SD) (i.e., more abnormal) than the z-scores in all other brain regions. Global amyloid-PET, temporo-parietal FDG-PET, and temporal tau-PET regions-of-interest (ROIs) were calculated. Results: Nine patients were classified as primary occipital; they were older (p = 0.034) and had more years of education (p = 0.007) than other PCA patients. The primary occipital group performed worse on the Ishihara test for color perception (p < 0.001), while other PCA patients performed worse on the Western Aphasia Battery (WAB) praxis scale (p = 0.005). Overall neuropsychiatric symptom burden was lower in the primary occipital group (p < 0.001). The FDG-PET meta-ROI was higher in the primary occipital subtype (p = 0.006), but no differences were observed in amyloid- and tau-PET. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that primary occipital PCA is characterized by an older age at onset, more color perception dysfunction, less severe ideomotor apraxia, and less hypometabolism in temporo-parietal meta-ROI compared to established phenotypes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2138-2143
Number of pages6
JournalEuropean Journal of Neurology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2022


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • posterior cortical atrophy
  • visuospatial impairment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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