Alzheimer’s disease: brain amyloidosis is a risk factor for cognitive decline

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Background

Brain amyloid β (Aβ) deposition and neurodegeneration have been documented in about 50–60% of cognitively healthy elderly individuals (aged 60 years or older). The long-term cognitive consequences of the presence of Alzheimer's disease pathology and neurodegeneration, and whether they have an independent or synergistic effect on cognition, are unclear. We aimed to characterise the long-term clinical and cognitive trajectories of healthy elderly individuals using a two-marker (Alzheimer's disease pathology and neurodegeneration) imaging construct.

Methods

Between Nov 3, 2006, and Nov 25, 2014, 573 cognitively healthy individuals in Melbourne and Perth, Australia, (mean age 73.1 years [SD 6.2]; 58% women) were enrolled in the Australian Imaging, Biomarker and Lifestyle (AIBL) study. Alzheimer's disease pathology (A) was determined by measuring Aβ deposition by PET, and neurodegeneration (N) was established by measuring hippocampal volume using MRI. Individuals were categorised as A−N−, A+N−, A+N+, or suspected non-Alzheimer's disease pathophysiology (A−N+, SNAP). Clinical progression, hippocampal volume, standard neuropsychological tests, and domain-specific and global cognitive composite scores were assessed over 6 years of follow-up. Linear mixed effect models and a Cox proportional hazards model of survival were used to evaluate, compare, and contrast the clinical, cognitive, and volumetric trajectories of patients in the four AN categories.

Findings

50 (9%) healthy individuals were classified as A+N+, 87 (15%) as A+N−, 310 (54%) as A−N−, and 126 (22%) as SNAP. APOE ε4 was more frequent in participants in the A+N+ (27; 54%) and A+N− (42; 48%) groups than in the A−N− (66; 21%) and SNAP groups (23; 18%). The A+N− and A+N+ groups had significantly faster cognitive decline than...