Hippocampal subfields (HCsf) are brain regions important for memory function that are vulnerable to decline with amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI), which is often a preclinical stage of Alzheimer’s disease. Studies in aMCI patients often assess HCsf tissue integrity using measures of volume, which has little specificity to microstructure and pathology. We use magnetic resonance elastography (MRE) to examine the viscoelastic mechanical properties of HCsf tissue, which is related to structural integrity, and sensitively detect differences in older adults with aMCI compared to an age-matched control group. Group comparisons revealed HCsf viscoelasticity is differentially affected in aMCI, with CA1-CA2 and DG-CA3 exhibiting lower stiffness and CA1-CA2 exhibiting higher damping ratio, both indicating poorer tissue integrity in aMCI. Including HCsf stiffness in a logistic regression improves classification of aMCI beyond measures of volume alone. Additionally, lower DG-CA3 stiffness predicted aMCI status regardless of DG-CA3 volume. These findings showcase the benefit of using MRE in detecting subtle pathological tissue changes in individuals with aMCI via the HCsf particularly affected in the disease.
- mild cognitive impairment
- mechanical properties