Purpose: We investigated the volumetric changes in the components of the cholinergic pathway for patients with early mild cognitive impairment (EMCI) and those with late mild cognitive impairment (LMCI). The effect of patients’ apolipoprotein 4 (APOE-ε4) allele status on the structural changes were analyzed. Methods: Structural magnetic resonance imaging data were collected. Patients’ demographic information, plasma data, and validated global cognitive composite scores were included. Relevant features were extracted for constructing machine learning models to differentiate between EMCI (n = 312) and LMCI (n = 541) and predict patients’ neurocognitive function. The data were analyzed primarily through one-way analysis of variance and two-way analysis of covariance. Results: Considerable differences were observed in cholinergic structural changes between patients with EMCI and LMCI. Cholinergic atrophy was more prominent in the LMCI cohort than in the EMCI cohort (P < 0.05 family-wise error corrected). APOE-ε4 differentially affected cholinergic atrophy in the LMCI and EMCI cohorts. For LMCI cohort, APOE-ε4 carriers exhibited increased brain atrophy (left amygdala: P = 0.001; right amygdala: P = 0.006, and right Ch123, P = 0.032). EMCI and LCMI patients showed distinctive associations of gray matter volumes in cholinergic regions with executive (R2 = 0.063 and 0.030 for EMCI and LMCI, respectively) and language (R2 = 0.095 and 0.042 for EMCI and LMCI, respectively) function. Conclusions: Our data confirmed significant cholinergic atrophy differences between early and late stages of mild cognitive impairment. The impact of the APOE-ε4 allele on cholinergic atrophy varied between the LMCI and EMCI groups.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)543-556
Number of pages14
Issue number4
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2024


  • APOE-ε4 allele
  • cholinergic pathway
  • Early mild cognitive impairment (EMCI)
  • mild cognitive impairment (MCI)
  • nucleus basalis of Meynert

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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