• high-resolution MRI;
  • hemispheric asymmetry;
  • healthy aging;
  • mild cognitive impairment;
  • Alzheimer's disease;
  • statistical parametric mapping;
  • voxel-based morphometry;
  • human brain mapping

Laterality of human brain varies under healthy aging and diseased conditions. The alterations in hemispheric asymmetry may embed distinct biomarkers linked to the disease dynamics. Statistical parametric mapping based on high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and image processing techniques have allowed automated characterization of morphological features across the entire brain. In this study, 149 subjects grouped in healthy young, healthy elderly, mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and Alzheimer's disease (AD) were investigated using multivariate analysis for regional cerebral laterality indexed by surface area, curvature index, cortical thickness, and subjacent white matter volume measured on high-resolution MR images. Asymmetry alteration of MCI and AD were characterized by marked region-specific reduction, while healthy elderly featured a distinct laterality shift in the limbic system in addition to regional asymmetry loss. Lack of the laterality shift in limbic system and early loss of asymmetry in entorhinal cortex may be biomarkers to identify preclinical AD among other dementia. Multivariate analysis of hemispheric asymmetry may provide information helpful for monitoring the disease progress and improving the management of MCI and AD. Hum Brain Mapp 34:3400–3410, 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.