Associations of Stages of Objective Memory Impairment With Amyloid PET and Structural MRI: The A4 Study

Background and Objectives

The goal of this work was to investigate the neuroimaging correlates of the Stages of Objective Memory Impairment (SOMI) system operationalized with the Free and Cued Selective Reminding Test (FCSRT), a widely used episodic memory measure.


The FCSRT begins with a study phase in which items (e.g., grapes) are identified in response to unique semantic cues (e.g., fruit) that are used in the test phase to prompt recall of items not retrieved by free recall. There are 3 test trials of the 16 items (maximum 48). Data from 4,484 cognitively unimpaired participants from the Anti-Amyloid Treatment in Asymptomatic Alzheimer’s (A4) study were used. All participants had amyloid PET imaging, and a subset of 1,262 β-amyloid (Aβ)–positive had structural MRIs. We compared the Aβ mean cortical standardized uptake value ratio (SUVR) and volumetric measures of hippocampus, parahippocampal gyrus, entorhinal cortex, and inferior temporal cortex between the 5 SOMI stages.


Participants had a mean age of 71.3 (SD 4.6) years; 40.6% were male; and 34.6% were APOE 4 positive. Half had no memory impairment; the other half had retrieval deficits, storage limitations, or both. Analysis of covariance in the entire sample while controlling for age, sex, education, and APOE 4 showed that individuals in higher SOMI stages had higher global amyloid SUVR (p < 0.001). Both SOMI-4 and -3 subgroups had higher amyloid SUVR than SOMI-0 and SOMI-1 subgroups. Individuals in higher SOMI stages had smaller hippocampal volume (p = 0.003), entorhinal cortex (p < 0.05), and inferior temporal lobes (p < 0.05), but there was no difference between parahippocampal gyrus volume of different SOMI stages. Pairwise comparison of SOMI subgroups showed that the SOMI-4, -3, and -2 subgroups had smaller hippocampal volume than the SOMI-0 and -1 subgroup. The SOMI-4 subgroup had significantly smaller entorhinal cortex and smaller inferior temporal lobe compared to all other groups.


Presence of Alzheimer disease pathology is closely related to memory impairment according to SOMI stages in the cognitively unimpaired sample of A4. Results from structural MRIs suggest that memory storage impairment (SOMI-3 and -4) is present when there is widespread medial temporal lobe atrophy.

Trial Registration Information identifier: NCT02008357.

Classification of Evidence

This study provides Class I evidence that, in normal older individuals, higher stages of memory impairment assessed with FCSRT were associated with higher amyloid imaging burden and lower volume of hippocampus, entorhinal cortex, and inferior temporal lobes.

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