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Effect of amyloid on memory and non-memory decline from preclinical to clinical Alzheimer’s disease

Yen Ying Lim, Paul Maruff, Robert H. Pietrzak, David Ames, Kathryn A. Ellis, Karra Harrington, Nicola T. Lautenschlager, Cassandra Szoeke, Ralph N. Martins, Colin L. Masters, Victor L. Villemagne, Christopher C. Rowe
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/brain/awt286 221-231 First published online: 31 October 2013

Summary

High amyloid has been associated with substantial episodic memory decline over 18 and 36 months in healthy older adults and individuals with mild cognitive impairment. However, the nature and magnitude of amyloid-related memory and non-memory change from the preclinical to the clinical stages of Alzheimer’s disease has not been evaluated over the same time interval. Healthy older adults (n = 320), individuals with mild cognitive impairment (n = 57) and individuals with Alzheimer’s disease (n = 36) enrolled in the Australian Imaging, Biomarkers and Lifestyle study underwent at least one positron emission tomography neuroimaging scan for amyloid. Cognitive assessments were conducted at baseline, and 18- and 36-month follow-up assessments. Compared with amyloid-negative healthy older adults, amyloid-positive healthy older adults, and amyloid-positive individuals with mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease showed moderate and equivalent decline in verbal and visual episodic memory over 36 months (d’s = 0.47–0.51). Relative to amyloid-negative healthy older adults, amyloid-positive healthy older adults showed no decline in non-memory functions, but amyloid-positive individuals with mild cognitive impairment showed additional moderate decline in language, attention and visuospatial function (d’s = 0.47–1.12), and amyloid-positive individuals with Alzheimer’s disease showed large decline in all aspects of memory and non-memory function (d’s = 0.73–2.28). Amyloid negative individuals with mild cognitive impairment did not show any cognitive decline over 36 months. When non-demented individuals (i.e. healthy older adults and adults with mild cognitive impairment) were further dichotomized, high amyloid-positive non-demented individuals showed a greater rate of decline in episodic memory and language when compared with low amyloid positive non-demented individuals. Memory decline does not plateau with increasing disease severity, and decline in non-memory functions increases in amyloid-positive individuals with mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease. The combined detection of amyloid positivity and objectively-defined decline in memory are reliable indicators of early Alzheimer’s disease, and the detection of decline in non-memory functions in amyloid-positive individuals with mild cognitive impairment may assist in determining the level of disease severity in these individuals. Further, these results suggest that grouping amyloid data into at least two categories of abnormality may be useful in determining the disease risk level in non-demented individuals.

  • beta-amyloid
  • neuropsychology
  • mild cognitive impairment
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • PET imaging
  • Abbreviations
    AIBL
    Australian Imaging, Biomarkers and Lifestyle
    AD-Aβ+
    Alzheimer’s disease amyloid-β+
    HA-Aβ+/−
    healthy older adult amyloid-β+/negative
    MCI-Aβ+/−
    mild cognitive impairment amyloid-β+/negative
    SUV
    standardized uptake value
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