EEG alpha reactivity and cholinergic system integrity in Lewy body dementia and Alzheimer’s disease

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Schumacher, Julia 
Thomas, Alan J. 
Peraza, Luis R. 
Firbank, Michael 
Cromarty, Ruth 

Abstract: Background: Lewy body dementia (LBD), which includes dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) and Parkinson’s disease dementia (PDD), is characterised by marked deficits within the cholinergic system which are more severe than in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and are mainly caused by degeneration of the nucleus basalis of Meynert (NBM) whose widespread cholinergic projections provide the main source of cortical cholinergic innervation. EEG alpha reactivity, which refers to the reduction in alpha power over occipital electrodes upon opening the eyes, has been suggested as a potential marker of cholinergic system integrity. Methods: Eyes-open and eyes-closed resting state EEG data were recorded from 41 LBD patients (including 24 patients with DLB and 17 with PDD), 21 patients with AD, and 40 age-matched healthy controls. Alpha reactivity was calculated as the relative reduction in alpha power over occipital electrodes when opening the eyes. Structural MRI data were used to assess volumetric changes within the NBM using a probabilistic anatomical map. Results: Alpha reactivity was reduced in AD and LBD patients compared to controls with a significantly greater reduction in LBD compared to AD. Reduced alpha reactivity was associated with smaller volumes of the NBM across all groups (ρ = 0.42, pFDR = 0.0001) and in the PDD group specifically (ρ = 0.66, pFDR = 0.01). Conclusions: We demonstrate that LBD patients show an impairment in alpha reactivity upon opening the eyes which distinguishes this form of dementia from AD. Furthermore, our results suggest that reduced alpha reactivity might be related to a loss of cholinergic drive from the NBM, specifically in PDD.

Research, Resting state EEG, Structural MRI, Dementia with Lewy bodies, Parkinson’s disease dementia, Nucleus basalis of Meynert
Journal Title
Alzheimer's Research & Therapy
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BioMed Central
Wellcome Trust (WT088441MA)
Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (na)
National Institute for Health Research (na)
Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (GB) (na)
Alzheimer's research UK (na)