This study reports FDG-PET findings in Wernicke-Korsakoff patients. Twelve patients suffering amnesia arising from the Korsakoff syndrome were compared with 10 control subjects without alcohol-related disability. Subjects received [18F]-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG-PET) imaging as well as neuropsychological assessment and high-resolution MR imaging with volumetric analysis. Volumetric MRI analysis had revealed thalamic and mamillary body atrophy in the patient group as well as frontal lobe atrophy with relative sparing of medial temporal lobe structures. Differences in regional metabolism were identified using complementary region of interest (ROI) and statistical parametric mapping (SPM) approaches employing either absolute methods or a reference region approach to increase statistical power. In general, we found relative hypermetabolism in white matter and hypometabolism in subcortical grey matter in Korsakoff patients. When FDG uptake ratios were examined with occipital lobe metabolism as covariate reference region, Korsakoff patients showed widespread bilateral white matter hypermetabolism on both SPM and ROI analysis. When white matter metabolism was the reference covariate; Korsakoff patients showed relative hypometabolism in the diencephalic grey matter, consistent with their known underlying neuropathology, and medial temporal and retrosplenial hypometabolism, interpreted as secondary metabolic effects within the diencephalic-limbic memory circuits. There was also evidence of a variable degree of more general frontotemporal neocortical hypometabolism on some, but not all, analyses.


Journal article



Publication Date





1027 - 1045


Adult, Atrophy, Brain, Brain Diseases, Metabolic, Brain Mapping, Diencephalon, Fluorodeoxyglucose F18, Frontal Lobe, Humans, Korsakoff Syndrome, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Memory Disorders, Neuropsychological Tests, Reference Values, Temporal Lobe, Thalamus, Tomography, Emission-Computed