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Alzheimer's disease (AD) can be difficult to differentiate clinically from other forms of dementia, such as frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD), due to overlapping symptoms. Research studies often base their diagnostic inclusion criteria on clinical rather than pathological data which may mean some subjects are misdiagnosed and misclassified. Recently, methods measuring cortical thickness using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) have been suggested to be effective in differentiating between clinically-defined AD and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) in addition to showing disease-related patterns of atrophy. In this study, cortical thickness was measured in 28 pathologically-confirmed AD patients, of which 11 had a typical amnestic presentation and 17 an atypical presentation during life, 23 pathologically-confirmed FTLD subjects, and 25 healthy controls. Patients with AD pathology, irrespective of clinical diagnosis, showed reduced cortical thickness bilaterally in the medial temporal lobe, posterior cingulate gyrus, precuneus, posterior parietal lobe, and frontal pole compared with controls. Lower cortical thickness in the posterior cingulate gyrus, parietal lobe and frontal pole was shown to be suggestive of AD pathology in patients with behavioural or language deficits. In contrast, lower cortical thickness in the anterior temporal lobe and frontal lobe is indicative of the presence of FTLD pathology in patients with a clinical presentation of FTD. Reduced cortical thickness in the posterior cingulate gyrus is characteristic of AD pathology in patients with typical and atypical clinical presentations of AD, and may assist a clinical distinction of AD pathology from FTLD pathology. © 2011 The authors and IOS Press. All rights reserved.

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