Serum neurofilament light protein (NfL) is a promising marker of disease onset and progression in Huntington’s disease (HD). Research published in Brain and Behavior examined associations between serum NfL concentrations and lifestyle factors in 29 HD mutation carriers and 15 healthy controls.
Lifestyle factors included; physical activity, cognitive reserve, smoking status and alcohol consumption, as measures of disease onset and progression, and cardiorespiratory fitness, social network size and diversity, as measures of environmental modifiers of healthy ageing and disease progression used in Alzheimer’s disease.
Disease-specific measures of cytosine-adenine-guanine (CAG)-age product (CAP) scores, diagnostic confidence scores, and total functional capacity scores were assessed.
No significant association between diagnostic functional score and NfL levels were seen.
Significant positive associations were observed between CAP score and NfL levels, suggesting individuals closer to diagnosis have higher serum NfL concentrations. Higher serum NfL was also associated with lower cognitive reserve.
Differences in the number of high contact social roles and cardiorespiratory fitness in healthy controls, compared to HD mutation carriers, had a significant association with NfL levels. Higher cardiorespiratory fitness was associated with lower NfL levels.
Despite its limitations, this study provides preliminary data to suggest a relationship between cognitive reserve and social network size and diversity in NfL levels in HD mutation carriers.