DOI: 10.1093/brain/awad411 ISSN: 0006-8950

Amidst an amygdala renaissance in Alzheimer’s disease

Kaitlin M Stouffer, Xenia Grande, Emrah Duezel, Maurits Johansson, Byron Creese, Menno P Witter, Michael I Miller, Laura E M Wisse, David Berron
  • Neurology (clinical)


The amygdala was highlighted as an early site for neurofibrillary tau tangle pathology in Alzheimer’s disease in the seminal Braak & Braak article (1991). This knowledge has, however, only received traction recently with advances in imaging and image analysis techniques. Here, we provide a cross-disciplinary overview of pathology and neuroimaging studies on the amygdala. These studies provide strong support for an early role of the amygdala in Alzheimer’s disease and the utility of imaging biomarkers of the amygdala in detecting early changes and predicting decline in cognitive functions and neuropsychiatric symptoms in early stages. We summarize the animal literature on connectivity of the amygdala, demonstrating that amygdala nuclei that show the earliest and strongest accumulation of neurofibrillary tangle pathology are those that are connected to brain regions that also show early neurofibrillary tangle accumulation. Additionally, we propose an alternative pathway of neurofibrillary tangle spreading within the medial temporal lobe between the amygdala and the anterior hippocampus. The proposed existence of this pathway is strengthened by novel experimental data on human functional connectivity. Finally, we summarize the functional roles of the amygdala, highlighting the correspondence between neurofibrillary tangle accumulation and symptomatic profiles in Alzheimer’s disease. In summary, these findings provide a new impetus for studying the amygdala in Alzheimer’s disease and a unique perspective to guide further study on neurofibrillary tangle spreading and the occurrence of neuropsychiatric symptoms in Alzheimer’s disease.

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