Frontal shift of posterior alpha activity is correlated with cognitive impairment in early Alzheimer's disease: A magnetoencephalography–beamformer study


Dr Ryouhei Ishii MD PhD, Department of Psychiatry, Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine, 2-2 D3 Yamadaoka, Suita City, Osaka 565-0871 Japan. Email:


Background:  Induced-oscillatory activity is considered a key factor for understanding functional processes in the brain. Magnetoencephalography (MEG) can measure oscillatory activity non-invasively with higher spatial resolution than electroencephalography (EEG). However, MEG has rarely been used to explore functional abnormalities that may represent state markers in patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD).

Methods:  Thirteen patients with early AD and 14 age-matched normal controls participated in the present study. Magnetoencephalography activity was acquired during eyes-open and eyes-closed states. Alpha event-related synchronization (ERS) after eye closing was calculated and its cortical sources superimposed on each individual's magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. The resulting functional image was converted into a Talairach-transformed anatomical brain image and group comparisons were made. We also assessed correlations between cortical ERS sources showing significant between-group differences in alpha activity and external clinical parameters, especially measures of cognitive function.

Results:  The averaged alpha ERS after eye closing appeared dominantly in posterior brain regions in both patients with AD and healthy controls. However, there was a significant increase in alpha ERS in frontal regions, maximal over the prefrontal cortex, in patients with AD relative to controls, indicating a frontal shift of the posterior dominant MEG alpha rhythm in AD patients. This frontal ERS source in the alpha band was negatively correlated with Mini-Mental State Examination scores in the AD patient group.

Conclusions:  The findings indicate that a frontal shift of alpha ERS elicited by an eyes-open/eyes-closed paradigm may be an early brain electromagnetic change in patients with AD, probably representing a physiological state marker of the disease. Furthermore, the results confirm that the beamformer with group comparison analysis is a useful tool with which to explore functional processes in the brain, as indicated by oscillatory activity changes.