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1.  Familial Alzheimer’s disease–associated presenilin-1 alters cerebellar activity and calcium homeostasis 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2014;124(4):1552-1567.
Familial Alzheimer’s disease (FAD) is characterized by autosomal dominant heritability and early disease onset. Mutations in the gene encoding presenilin-1 (PS1) are found in approximately 80% of cases of FAD, with some of these patients presenting cerebellar damage with amyloid plaques and ataxia with unclear pathophysiology. A Colombian kindred carrying the PS1-E280A mutation is the largest known cohort of PS1-FAD patients. Here, we investigated PS1-E280A–associated cerebellar dysfunction and found that it occurs early in PS1-E208A carriers, while cerebellar signs are highly prevalent in patients with dementia. Postmortem analysis of cerebella of PS1-E280A carrier revealed greater Purkinje cell (PC) loss and more abnormal mitochondria compared with controls. In PS1-E280A tissue, ER/mitochondria tethering was impaired, Ca2+ channels IP3Rs and CACNA1A were downregulated, and Ca2+-dependent mitochondrial transport proteins MIRO1 and KIF5C were reduced. Accordingly, expression of PS1-E280A in a neuronal cell line altered ER/mitochondria tethering and transport compared with that in cells expressing wild-type PS1. In a murine model of PS1-FAD, animals exhibited mild ataxia and reduced PC simple spike activity prior to cerebellar β-amyloid deposition. Our data suggest that impaired calcium homeostasis and mitochondrial dysfunction in PS1-FAD PCs reduces their activity and contributes to motor coordination deficits prior to Aβ aggregation and dementia. We propose that PS1-E280A affects both Ca2+ homeostasis and Aβ precursor processing, leading to FAD and neurodegeneration.
PMCID: PMC3973081  PMID: 24569455
2.  Florbetapir PET analysis of amyloid-β deposition in the presenilin 1 E280A autosomal dominant Alzheimer’s disease kindred: a cross-sectional study 
Lancet neurology  2012;11(12):10.1016/S1474-4422(12)70227-2.
Fibrillar amyloid-β (Aβ) is thought to begin accumulating in the brain many years before the onset of clinical impairment in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. By assessing the accumulation of Aβ in people at risk of genetic forms of Alzheimer’s disease, we can identify how early preclinical changes start in individuals certain to develop dementia later in life. We sought to characterise the age-related accumulation of Aβ deposition in presenilin 1 (PSEN1) E280A mutation carriers across the spectrum of preclinical disease.
Between Aug 1 and Dec 6, 2011, members of the familial Alzheimer’s disease Colombian kindred aged 18–60 years were recruited from the Alzheimer’s Prevention Initiative’s registry at the University of Antioquia, Medellín, Colombia. Cross-sectional assessment using florbetapir PET was done in symptomatic mutation carriers with mild cognitive impairment or mild dementia, asymptomatic carriers, and asymptomatic non-carriers. These assessments were done at the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute in Phoenix, AZ, USA. A cortical grey matter mask consisting of six predefined regions. was used to measure mean cortical florbetapir PET binding. Cortical-to-pontine standard-uptake value ratios were used to characterise the cross-sectional accumulation of fibrillar Aβ deposition in carriers and non-carriers with regression analysis and to estimate the trajectories of fibrillar Aβ deposition.
We enrolled a cohort of 11 symptomatic individuals, 19 presymptomatic mutation carriers, and 20 asymptomatic non-carriers, ranging in age from 20 to 56 years. There was greater florbetapir binding in asymptomatic PSEN1 E280A mutation carriers than in age matched non-carriers. Fibrillar Aβ began to accumulate in PSEN 1E280A mutation carriers at a mean age of 28·2 years (95% CI 27·3–33·4), about 16 years and 21 years before the predicted median ages at mild cognitive impairment and dementia onset, respectively. 18F florbetapir binding rose steeply over the next 9·4 years and plateaued at a mean age of 37·6 years (95% CI 35·3–40·2), about 6 and 11 years before the expected respective median ages at mild cognitive impairment and dementia onset. Prominent florbetapir binding was seen in the anterior and posterior cingulate, precuneus, and parietotemporal and frontal grey matter, as well as in the basal ganglia. Binding in the basal ganglia was not seen earlier or more prominently than in other regions.
These findings contribute to the understanding of preclinical familial Alzheimer’s disease and help set the stage for assessment of amyloid-modifying treatments in the prevention of familial Alzheimer’s disease.
Avid Radiopharmaceuticals, Banner Alzheimer’s Foundation, Nomis Foundation, Anonymous Foundation, Forget Me Not Initiative, Colciencias, National Institute on Aging, and the State of Arizona.
PMCID: PMC3515078  PMID: 23137949
3.  Cortical atrophy in presymptomatic Alzheimer’s disease presenilin 1 mutation carriers 
Sporadic late-onset Alzheimer’s disease (AD) dementia has been associated with a ‘signature’ of cortical atrophy in paralimbic and heteromodal association regions measured with MRI.
To investigate whether a similar pattern of cortical atrophy is present in presymptomatic presenilin 1 E280A mutation carriers an average of 6 years before clinical symptom onset.
40 cognitively normal volunteers from a Colombian population with familial AD were included; 18 were positive for the AD-associated presenilin 1 mutation (carriers, mean age=38) whereas 22 were non-carriers. T1-weighted volumetric MRI images were acquired and cortical thickness was measured. A priori regions of interest from our previous work were used to obtain thickness from AD-signature regions.
Compared to non-carriers, presymptomatic presenilin 1 mutation carriers exhibited thinner cortex within the AD-signature summary measure (p<0.008). Analyses of individual regions demonstrated thinner angular gyrus, precuneus and superior parietal lobule in carriers compared to non-carriers, with trend-level effects in the medial temporal lobe.
Results demonstrate that cognitively normal individuals genetically determined to develop AD have a thinner cerebral cortex than non-carriers in regions known to be affected by typical late-onset sporadic AD. These findings provide further support for the hypothesis that cortical atrophy is present in preclinical AD more than 5 years prior to symptom onset. Further research is needed to determine whether this method could be used to characterise the age-dependent trajectory of cortical atrophy in presymptomatic stages of AD.
PMCID: PMC3632663  PMID: 23134660
4.  Event-related potential markers of brain changes in preclinical familial Alzheimer disease 
Neurology  2011;77(5):469-475.
Event-related potentials (ERPs) can reflect differences in brain electrophysiology underlying cognitive functions in brain disorders such as dementia and mild cognitive impairment. To identify individuals at risk for Alzheimer disease (AD) we used high-density ERPs to examine brain physiology in young presymptomatic individuals (average age 34.2 years) who carry the E280A mutation in the presenilin-1 (PSEN1) gene and will go on to develop AD around the age of 45.
Twenty-one subjects from a Colombian population with familial AD participated: 10 presymptomatic subjects positive for the PSEN1 mutation (carriers) and 11 siblings without the mutation (controls). Subjects performed a visual recognition memory test while 128-channel ERPs were recorded.
Despite identical behavioral performance, PSEN1 mutation carriers showed less positivity in frontal regions and more positivity in occipital regions, compared to controls. These differences were more pronounced during the 200–300 msec period. Discriminant analysis at this time interval showed promising sensitivity (72.7%) and specificity (81.8%) of the ERP measures to predict the presence of AD pathology.
Presymptomatic PSEN1 mutation carriers show changes in brain physiology that can be detected by high-density ERPs. The relative differences observed showing greater frontal positivity in controls and greater occipital positivity in carriers indicates that control subjects may use frontally mediated processes to distinguish between studied and unstudied visual items, whereas carriers appear to rely more upon perceptual details of the items to distinguish between them. These findings also demonstrate the potential usefulness of ERP brain correlates as preclinical markers of AD.
PMCID: PMC3146305  PMID: 21775732
5.  Choroidal Proteins Involved in Cerebrospinal Fluid Production may be Potential Drug Targets for Alzheimer’s Disease Therapy 
Alzheimer’s disease is known to be the most common form of dementia in the elderly. It is clinically characterized by impairment of cognitive functions, as well as changes in personality, behavioral disturbances and an impaired ability to perform activities of daily living. To date, there are no effective ways to cure or reverse the disease. Genetic studies of early-onset familial Alzheimer’s disease cases revealed causative mutations in the genes encoding β-amyloid precursor protein and the γ-secretase-complex components presenilin-1 and presenilin-2, supporting an important role of β-amyloid in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease. Compromised function of the choroid plexus and defective cerebrospinal fluid production and turnover, with diminished clearance of β-amyloid, may play an important role in late-onset forms of Alzheimer’s disease. If reduced cerebrospinal fluid turnover is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, then therapeutic strategies to improve cerebrospinal fluid flow are reasonable. However, the role of deficient cerebrospinal fluid dynamics in Alzheimer’s disease and the relevance of choroidal proteins as potential therapeutic targets to enhance cerebrospinal fluid turnover have received relatively little research attention. In this paper, we discuss several choroidal proteins, such as Na+-K+ ATPase, carbonic anhydrase, and aquaporin 1, that may be targets for pharmacological up-regulation of cerebrospinal fluid formation. The search for potentially beneficial drugs useful to ameliorate Alzheimer’s disease by facilitating cerebrospinal fluid production and turnover may be an important area for future research. However, the ultimate utility of such modulators in the management of Alzheimer’s disease remains to be determined. Here, we hypothesize that caffeine, the most commonly used psychoactive drug in the world, may be an attractive therapeutic candidate for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease since long-term caffeine consumption may augment cerebrospinal fluid production. Other potential mechanisms of cognitive protection by caffeine have been suggested by recent studies.
PMCID: PMC3072647  PMID: 21487536
Alzheimer’s disease; aquaporin 1; caffeine; carbonic anhydrase II; cerebrospinal fluid pressure; cerebrospinal fluid production; choroid plexus; intracranial pressure; Na+-K+ ATPase; SLC4A10
6.  Clinical features and multidisciplinary approaches to dementia care 
Dementia is a clinical syndrome of widespread progressive deterioration of cognitive abilities and normal daily functioning. These cognitive and behavioral impairments pose considerable challenges to individuals with dementia, along with their family members and caregivers. Four primary dementia classifications have been defined according to clinical and research criteria: 1) Alzheimer’s disease; 2) vascular dementias; 3) frontotemporal dementias; and 4) dementia with Lewy bodies/Parkinson’s disease dementia. The cumulative efforts of multidisciplinary healthcare teams have advanced our understanding of dementia beyond basic descriptions, towards a more complete elucidation of risk factors, clinical symptoms, and neuropathological correlates. The characterization of disease subtypes has facilitated targeted management strategies, advanced treatments, and symptomatic care for individuals affected by dementia. This review briefly summarizes the current state of knowledge and directions of dementia research and clinical practice. We provide a description of the risk factors, clinical presentation, and differential diagnosis of dementia. A summary of multidisciplinary team approaches to dementia care is outlined, including management strategies for the treatment of cognitive impairments, functional deficits, and behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia. The needs of individuals with dementia are extensive, often requiring care beyond traditional bounds of medical practice, including pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic management interventions. Finally, advanced research on the early prodromal phase of dementia is reviewed, with a focus on change-point models, trajectories of cognitive change, and threshold models of pathological burden. Future research goals are outlined, with a call to action for social policy initiatives that promote preventive lifestyle behaviors, and healthcare programs that will support the growing number of individuals affected by dementia.
PMCID: PMC3104685  PMID: 21655340
dementia; Alzheimer’s disease; clinical features; multidisciplinary care; BPSD; prodromal dementia
7.  Cognitive training and cognitive rehabilitation for persons with mild to moderate dementia of the Alzheimer's or vascular type: a review 
Cognitive impairments, and particularly memory deficits, are a defining feature of the early stages of Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia. Interventions that target these cognitive deficits and the associated difficulties with activities of daily living are the subject of ever-growing interest. Cognitive training and cognitive rehabilitation are specific forms of non-pharmacological intervention to address cognitive and non-cognitive outcomes. The present review is an abridged version of a Cochrane Review and aims to systematically evaluate the evidence for these forms of intervention in people with mild Alzheimer's disease or vascular dementia. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs), published in English, comparing cognitive rehabilitation or cognitive training interventions with control conditions and reporting relevant outcomes for the person with dementia or the family caregiver (or both), were considered for inclusion. Eleven RCTs reporting cognitive training interventions were included in the review. A large number of measures were used in the different studies, and meta-analysis could be conducted for several primary and secondary outcomes of interest. Several outcomes were not measured in any of the studies. Overall estimates of the treatment effect were calculated by using a fixed-effects model, and statistical heterogeneity was measured by using a standard chi-squared statistic. One RCT of cognitive rehabilitation was identified, allowing the examination of effect sizes, but no meta-analysis could be conducted. Cognitive training was not associated with positive or negative effects in relation to any of the reported outcomes. The overall quality of the trials was low to moderate. The single RCT of cognitive rehabilitation found promising results in relation to some patient and caregiver outcomes and was generally of high quality. The available evidence regarding cognitive training remains limited, and the quality of the evidence needs to improve. However, there is still no indication of any significant benefits from cognitive training. Trial reports indicate that some gains resulting from intervention may not be captured adequately by available standardized outcome measures. The results of the single RCT of cognitive rehabilitation show promise but are preliminary in nature. Further well-designed studies of cognitive training and cognitive rehabilitation are required to provide more definitive evidence. Researchers should describe and classify their interventions appropriately by using the available terminology.
PMCID: PMC3979126  PMID: 23924584
8.  Risk and Determinants of Dementia in Patients with Mild Cognitive Impairment and Brain Subcortical Vascular Changes: A Study of Clinical, Neuroimaging, and Biological Markers—The VMCI-Tuscany Study: Rationale, Design, and Methodology 
Dementia is one of the most disabling conditions. Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia (VaD) are the most frequent causes. Subcortical VaD is consequent to deep-brain small vessel disease (SVD) and is the most frequent form of VaD. Its pathological hallmarks are ischemic white matter changes and lacunar infarcts. Degenerative and vascular changes often coexist, but mechanisms of interaction are incompletely understood. The term mild cognitive impairment defines a transitional state between normal ageing and dementia. Pre-dementia stages of VaD are also acknowledged (vascular mild cognitive impairment, VMCI). Progression relates mostly to the subcortical VaD type, but determinants of such transition are unknown. Variability of phenotypic expression is not fully explained by severity grade of lesions, as depicted by conventional MRI that is not sensitive to microstructural and metabolic alterations. Advanced neuroimaging techniques seem able to achieve this. Beside hypoperfusion, blood-brain-barrier dysfunction has been also demonstrated in subcortical VaD. The aim of the Vascular Mild Cognitive Impairment Tuscany Study is to expand knowledge about determinants of transition from mild cognitive impairment to dementia in patients with cerebral SVD. This paper summarizes the main aims and methodological aspects of this multicenter, ongoing, observational study enrolling patients affected by VMCI with SVD.
PMCID: PMC3328954  PMID: 22550606
9.  Diagnosis and management of Alzheimer's disease 
The diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a 2-stage process, in stage 1, the dementia syndrome, comprising neuropsychologic and neuropsychiatrie components together with deficits in activities of daily living, is differentiated on clinical grounds from a number of other conditions (delirium, concomitant physical illness, drug treatment normal memory loss, etc), in stage 2, the cause is determined, AD being the most common, followed by vascular dementia, Lewy-body dementia, frontal lobe dementia, and a host of so-called secondary causes. Although a mixed Alzheimer/vascular picture is common, gradual onset of multiple cognitive deficits is typical of AD, while abrupt onset, a fluctuating course, hypertension, and focal neurologic signs suggest vascular dementia, in Lewy-body dementia, memory loss may not be an early feature, and fluctuation can be marked by distressing psychotic symptoms and behavioral disturbance, investigations should be minimally invasive and relatively cheap, confined to routine blood tests, chest x-ray and/or electrocardiogram if clinically indicated, cardiologie or neurologic referral in the presence of cerebrovascular signs, and computed tomography if an intracranial lesion is suspected. Accurate diagnosis enables the clinician to outline the disease course to the family and inform them of genetic implications. Numerous instruments for assessing cognitive function, global status, psychiatric well-being, and activities of daily living are briefly reviewed.
PMCID: PMC3181595  PMID: 22034134
Alzheimer's disease; vascular dementia; Lewy-body dementia; diagnostic instrument; genetics
10.  Familial Aggregation of Dementia With Lewy Bodies 
Archives of Neurology  2011;68(1):90-93.
Familial aggregation of dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) remains unclear.
To determine the degree of family aggregation of DLB by comparing DLB risk between siblings of probands with clinically diagnosed DLB and siblings of probands with clinically diagnosed Alzheimer disease in a cohort of Caribbean Hispanic families and to explore the degree of aggregation of specific clinical manifestations (ie, cognitive fluctuations, visual hallucinations, and parkinsonism) in DLB.
Familial cohort study.
Academic research.
We separately compared risks of possible DLB, probable DLB, and clinical core features of DLB (cognitive fluctuations, visual hallucinations, and parkinsonism) between siblings of probands with clinically diagnosed DLB (n=344) and siblings of probands with clinically diagnosed Alzheimer disease (n=280) in 214 Caribbean Hispanic families with extended neurologic and neuropsychological assessment.
Main Outcome Measures
We applied general estimating equations to adjust for clustering within families. In these models, age and proband disease status were independent variables, and disease status of siblings was the measure of disease risk and the dependent variable.
Compared with siblings of probands having clinically diagnosed Alzheimer disease, siblings of probands having clinically diagnosed DLB had higher risks of probable DLB (odds ratio [OR], 2.29; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.04–5.04) and visual hallucinations (2.32; 1.16–4.64). They also had increased risks of possible DLB (OR, 1.51; 95% CI, 0.97–2.34) and cognitive fluctuations (1.55; 0.95–2.53).
Dementia with Lewy bodies and core features of DLB aggregate in families. Compared with siblings of probands having clinically diagnosed AD, siblings of probands having clinically diagnosed DLB are at increased risks of DLB and visual hallucinations. These findings are an important step in elucidating the genetic risk factors underlying DLB and in delineating DLB from other neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer disease.
PMCID: PMC3268781  PMID: 21220678
11.  Auditory object cognition in dementia 
Neuropsychologia  2011;49(9):2755-2765.
► A study of nonverbal auditory object processing in four dementia syndromes. ► Subjects were assessed using a novel, customised neuropsychological battery. ► Different dementia syndromes lead to distinct auditory processing impairments. ► Evidence is provided for separable stages of nonverbal auditory processing.
The cognition of nonverbal sounds in dementia has been relatively little explored. Here we undertook a systematic study of nonverbal sound processing in patient groups with canonical dementia syndromes comprising clinically diagnosed typical amnestic Alzheimer's disease (AD; n = 21), progressive nonfluent aphasia (PNFA; n = 5), logopenic progressive aphasia (LPA; n = 7) and aphasia in association with a progranulin gene mutation (GAA; n = 1), and in healthy age-matched controls (n = 20). Based on a cognitive framework treating complex sounds as ‘auditory objects’, we designed a novel neuropsychological battery to probe auditory object cognition at early perceptual (sub-object), object representational (apperceptive) and semantic levels. All patients had assessments of peripheral hearing and general neuropsychological functions in addition to the experimental auditory battery. While a number of aspects of auditory object analysis were impaired across patient groups and were influenced by general executive (working memory) capacity, certain auditory deficits had some specificity for particular dementia syndromes. Patients with AD had a disproportionate deficit of auditory apperception but preserved timbre processing. Patients with PNFA had salient deficits of timbre and auditory semantic processing, but intact auditory size and apperceptive processing. Patients with LPA had a generalised auditory deficit that was influenced by working memory function. In contrast, the patient with GAA showed substantial preservation of auditory function, but a mild deficit of pitch direction processing and a more severe deficit of auditory apperception. The findings provide evidence for separable stages of auditory object analysis and separable profiles of impaired auditory object cognition in different dementia syndromes.
PMCID: PMC3202629  PMID: 21689671
Dementia; Auditory perception; Auditory object
12.  Regional brain volume differences in symptomatic and presymptomatic carriers of familial Alzheimer’s disease mutations 
Mutations in the presenilin (PSEN1, PSEN2) and amyloid precursor protein (APP) genes cause familial Alzheimer’s disease (FAD) in a nearly fully penetrant, autosomal dominant manner, providing a unique opportunity to study presymptomatic individuals who can be predicted to develop Alzheimer’s disease (AD) with essentially 100% certainty. Using tensor-based morphometry (TBM), we examined brain volume differences between presymptomatic and symptomatic FAD mutation carriers and non-carrier (NC) relatives.
Twenty-five mutation carriers and 10 NC relatives underwent brain MRI and clinical assessment. Four mutation carriers had dementia (MUT-Dem), 12 had amnestic mild cognitive impairment (MUT-aMCI) and nine were cognitively normal (MUT-Norm). TBM brain volume maps of MUT-Norm, MUT-aMCI and MUT-Dem subjects were compared to NC subjects.
MUT-Norm subjects exhibited significantly smaller volumes in the thalamus, caudate and putamen. MUT-aMCI subjects had smaller volumes in the thalamus, splenium and pons, but not in the caudate or putamen. MUT-Dem subjects demonstrated smaller volumes in temporal, parietal and left frontal regions. As non-demented carriers approached the expected age of dementia diagnosis, this was associated with larger ventricular and caudate volumes and a trend towards smaller temporal lobe volume.
Cognitively intact FAD mutation carriers had lower thalamic, caudate and putamen volumes, and we found preliminary evidence for increasing caudate size during the predementia stage. These regions may be affected earliest during prodromal stages of FAD, while cortical atrophy may occur in later stages, when carriers show cognitive deficits. Further studies of this population will help us understand the progression of neurobiological changes in AD.
PMCID: PMC3779052  PMID: 23085935
13.  Alzheimer disease pathology and longitudinal cognitive performance in the oldest-old with no dementia 
Neurology  2012;79(9):915-921.
It has been hypothesized that individuals without dementia with Alzheimer disease (AD) neuropathology may be in the preclinical stages of dementia and could be experiencing subtle cognitive decline. The purpose of this study was to compare longitudinal cognitive performance in oldest-old individuals without dementia with and without AD neuropathology.
The study included 58 individuals without dementia from The 90+ Autopsy Study, a population-based study of aging and dementia in individuals aged 90 and older. Participants had neurologic and neuropsychological testing every 6 months with an average of 3 years of follow-up. We compared the trajectory of cognitive performance on the Modified Mini-Mental State Examination (3MS) and the California Verbal Learning Test II (CVLT) by level of AD neuropathology. Based on Consortium to Establish a Registry for Alzheimer's Disease plaque staging, individuals were categorized as having low (none or sparse) or high (moderate or frequent) plaques. Based on Braak and Braak staging, participants were classified as having low (stages I–III) or high (IV–VI) tangles.
No significant differences were found in 3MS or CVLT cognitive performance over time based on plaque or tangle staging. Both high and low pathology groups showed modest improvements on the 3MS and CVLT consistent with learning effects.
AD neuropathology at autopsy is not associated with the trajectory of cognitive performance in the 3 years before death in oldest-old without dementia. Despite the presence of AD neuropathology at death, oldest-old without dementia display learning effects on cognitive tests. Further research is necessary to understand factors other than AD neuropathology that may affect cognition in the oldest-old.
PMCID: PMC3425842  PMID: 22895581
14.  The Neuropsychological Profile of Alzheimer Disease 
Neuropsychological assessment has featured prominently over the past 30 years in the characterization of dementia associated with Alzheimer disease (AD). Clinical neuropsychological methods have identified the earliest, most definitive cognitive and behavioral symptoms of illness, contributing to the identification, staging, and tracking of disease. With increasing public awareness of dementia, disease detection has moved to earlier stages of illness, at a time when deficits are both behaviorally and pathologically selective. For reasons that are not well understood, early AD pathology frequently targets large-scale neuroanatomical networks for episodic memory before other networks that subserve language, attention, executive functions, and visuospatial abilities. This chapter reviews the pathognomonic neuropsychological features of AD dementia and how these differ from “normal,” age-related cognitive decline and from other neurodegenerative diseases that cause dementia, including cortical Lewy body disease, frontotemporal lobar degeneration, and cerebrovascular disease.
Alzheimer disease (AD) targets neuroanatomical networks for episodic memory before those for language, executive functions, and visuospatial abilities. Therefore, amnestic dementia is strongly associated with early AD pathology.
PMCID: PMC3312395  PMID: 22474609
15.  Mild Parkinsonian Signs in the Elderly – Is There an Association with PD? Crossectional Findings in 992 Individuals 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e92878.
Mild parkinsonian signs (MPS) are common in the elderly population, and have been associated with vascular diseases, mild cognitive impairment and dementia; however their relation to Parkinson's disease (PD) is unclear. Hypothesizing that individuals with MPS may reflect a pre-stage of PD, i.e. a stage in which the nigrostriatal system is already affected although to a milder degree than at the time of PD diagnosis, aim of this study was to evaluate the similarities between MPS and PD.
The TREND study is a prospective cross-sectional cohort study in individuals >50 years with biennial assessments designed to identify markers for an earlier diagnosis of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease. For this substudy 992 individuals were included for analyses (892 controls, 73 MPS individuals, 27 PD patients). Parameters defining risk of PD (sex, age, positive family history), prodromal markers (hyposmia, REM sleep behavior disorder, depression and autonomic failure) as well as quantitative fine motor, axial motor and cognitive parameters were compared between the three cohorts.
As expected, PD patients differed from controls with regard to 12 of 15 of the assessed parameters. MPS individuals differed significantly from controls in 12 of the PD-associated parameters, but differed from PD only in 5 parameters.
This study shows that individuals with MPS share many prodromal and clinical markers of PD with PD patients, implying that either a common dynamic process or similar constitutional factors occur in MPS individuals and PD patients.
PMCID: PMC3968033  PMID: 24675747
16.  The Presenilin 1 P264L mutation presenting as non-fluent/agrammatic primary progressive aphasia 
Primary progressive aphasia (PPA) represents a diverse group of language-led dementias most often due to frontotemporal lobar degeneration. We report clinical, neuropsychological and neuroimaging data in the case of a 47 year old woman presenting with non-fluent PPA due to a genetically confirmed pathogenic Presenilin 1 P264L mutation. This case highlights an unusual clinical presentation of familial Alzheimer’s disease and a novel presentation of the P264L mutation. The case adds to accumulating evidence that particular mutations can promote specific brain network degeneration, with wider implications for understanding the sporadic forms of Alzheimer’s disease and PPA.
PMCID: PMC4041608  PMID: 23579325
Primary progressive aphasia; familial Alzheimer’s disease; Presenilin 1
17.  Magnetic resonance imaging evidence for presymptomatic change in thalamus and caudate in familial Alzheimer’s disease 
Brain  2013;136(5):1399-1414.
Amyloid imaging studies of presymptomatic familial Alzheimer’s disease have revealed the striatum and thalamus to be the earliest sites of amyloid deposition. This study aimed to investigate whether there are associated volume and diffusivity changes in these subcortical structures during the presymptomatic and symptomatic stages of familial Alzheimer’s disease. As the thalamus and striatum are involved in neural networks subserving complex cognitive and behavioural functions, we also examined the diffusion characteristics in connecting white matter tracts. A cohort of 20 presenilin 1 mutation carriers underwent volumetric and diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging, neuropsychological and clinical assessments; 10 were symptomatic, 10 were presymptomatic and on average 5.6 years younger than their expected age at onset; 20 healthy control subjects were also studied. We conducted region of interest analyses of volume and diffusivity changes in the thalamus, caudate, putamen and hippocampus and examined diffusion behaviour in the white matter tracts of interest (fornix, cingulum and corpus callosum). Voxel-based morphometry and tract-based spatial statistics were also used to provide unbiased whole-brain analyses of group differences in volume and diffusion indices, respectively. We found that reduced volumes of the left thalamus and bilateral caudate were evident at a presymptomatic stage, together with increased fractional anisotropy of bilateral thalamus and left caudate. Although no significant hippocampal volume loss was evident presymptomatically, reduced mean diffusivity was observed in the right hippocampus and reduced mean and axial diffusivity in the right cingulum. In contrast, symptomatic mutation carriers showed increased mean, axial and in particular radial diffusivity, with reduced fractional anisotropy, in all of the white matter tracts of interest. The symptomatic group also showed atrophy and increased mean diffusivity in all of the subcortical grey matter regions of interest, with increased fractional anisotropy in bilateral putamen. We propose that axonal injury may be an early event in presymptomatic Alzheimer’s disease, causing an initial fall in axial and mean diffusivity, which then increases with loss of axonal density. The selective degeneration of long-coursing white matter tracts, with relative preservation of short interneurons, may account for the increase in fractional anisotropy that is seen in the thalamus and caudate presymptomatically. It may be owing to their dense connectivity that imaging changes are seen first in the thalamus and striatum, which then progress to involve other regions in a vulnerable neuronal network.
PMCID: PMC3634199  PMID: 23539189
familial Alzheimer’s disease; presenilin 1 (PSEN1, PS1); presymptomatic; diffusion tensor imaging; subcortical atrophy
18.  Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) in medical practice: a critical review of the concept and new diagnostic procedure. Report of the MCI Working Group of the European Consortium on Alzheimer's Disease 
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) was proposed as a nosological entity referring to elderly people with mild cognitive deficit but no dementia. MCI is a heterogeneous clinical entity with multiple sources of heterogeneity. The concept of MCI was reviewed and a diagnostic procedure with three different stages was proposed by the European Consortium on Alzheimer's Disease Working Group on MCI. Firstly, MCI should correspond to cognitive complaints coming from the patients or their families; the reporting of a relative decline in cognitive functioning during the past year by a patient or informant; cognitive disorders as evidenced by clinical evaluation; absence of major repercussions on daily life; and absence of dementia. These criteria, similar to those defined during an international workshop in Stockholm, make it possible to identify an MCI syndrome, which is the first stage of the diagnostic procedure. Secondly, subtypes of MCI had to be recognised. Finally, the aetiopathogenic subtype could be identified. Identifying patients at a high risk for progression to dementia and establishing more specific and adapted therapeutic strategies at an early stage, together with more structured overall management, is made possible by the diagnostic procedure proposed.
PMCID: PMC2077456  PMID: 16549412
19.  Hippocampal Hyperactivation in Presymptomatic Familial Alzheimer’s Disease 
Annals of neurology  2010;68(6):865-875.
The examination of individuals who carry fully penetrant genetic alterations that result in familial Alzheimer’s disease (FAD) provides a unique model for studying the early presymptomatic disease stages. In AD, deficits in episodic and associative memory have been linked to structural and functional changes within the hippocampal system. This study used functional MRI (fMRI) to examine hippocampal function in a group of healthy, young, cognitively-intact presymptomatic individuals (average age 33.7 years) who carry the E280A presenilin-1 (PS1) genetic mutation for FAD. These PS1 subjects will go on to develop the first symptoms of the disease around the age of 45 years. Our objective was to examine hippocampal function years before the onset of clinical symptoms.
Twenty carriers of the Alzheimer’s-associated E280A PS1 mutation and 19 PS1-negative control subjects participated. Both groups were matched for age, sex, education level, and neuropsychological test performance. All participants performed a face-name associative encoding task while in a Philips 1.5T fMRI scanner. Analysis focused on the hippocampal system.
Despite identical behavioral performance, presymptomatic PS1 mutation carriers exhibited increased activation of the right anterior hippocampus during encoding of novel face-name associations compared to matched controls.
Our results demonstrate that functional changes within the hippocampal memory system occur years before cognitive decline in FAD. These presymptomatic changes in hippocampal physiology in FAD suggest that hippocampal fMRI patterns during associative encoding may also provide a preclinical biomarker in sporadic AD.
PMCID: PMC3175143  PMID: 21194156
20.  Connected speech as a marker of disease progression in autopsy-proven Alzheimer’s disease 
Brain  2013;136(12):3727-3737.
Although an insidious history of episodic memory difficulty is a typical presenting symptom of Alzheimer’s disease, detailed neuropsychological profiling frequently demonstrates deficits in other cognitive domains, including language. Previous studies from our group have shown that language changes may be reflected in connected speech production in the earliest stages of typical Alzheimer’s disease. The aim of the present study was to identify features of connected speech that could be used to examine longitudinal profiles of impairment in Alzheimer’s disease. Samples of connected speech were obtained from 15 former participants in a longitudinal cohort study of ageing and dementia, in whom Alzheimer’s disease was diagnosed during life and confirmed at post-mortem. All patients met clinical and neuropsychological criteria for mild cognitive impairment between 6 and 18 months before converting to a status of probable Alzheimer’s disease. In a subset of these patients neuropsychological data were available, both at the point of conversion to Alzheimer’s disease, and after disease severity had progressed from the mild to moderate stage. Connected speech samples from these patients were examined at later disease stages. Spoken language samples were obtained using the Cookie Theft picture description task. Samples were analysed using measures of syntactic complexity, lexical content, speech production, fluency and semantic content. Individual case analysis revealed that subtle changes in language were evident during the prodromal stages of Alzheimer’s disease, with two-thirds of patients with mild cognitive impairment showing significant but heterogeneous changes in connected speech. However, impairments at the mild cognitive impairment stage did not necessarily entail deficits at mild or moderate stages of disease, suggesting non-language influences on some aspects of performance. Subsequent examination of these measures revealed significant linear trends over the three stages of disease in syntactic complexity, semantic and lexical content. The findings suggest, first, that there is a progressive disruption in language integrity, detectable from the prodromal stage in a subset of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, and secondly that measures of semantic and lexical content and syntactic complexity best capture the global progression of linguistic impairment through the successive clinical stages of disease. The identification of disease-specific language impairment in prodromal Alzheimer’s disease could enhance clinicians’ ability to distinguish probable Alzheimer’s disease from changes attributable to ageing, while longitudinal assessment could provide a simple approach to disease monitoring in therapeutic trials.
PMCID: PMC3859216  PMID: 24142144
Alzheimer’s disease; aphasia; neuropsychological tests; language; connected speech analysis
21.  Volumetric and Visual Rating of MRI scans in the Diagnosis of Amnestic MCI and Alzheimer's Disease 
In the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease, structural MRI scans have been used primarily to exclude non-Alzheimer's cause of dementia. However, the pattern and extent of medial temporal atrophy (MTA) on structural MRI scans, which correlates strongly with the pathological severity of Alzheimer's disease (AD), can be used to support the diagnosis of a degenerative dementia, especially AD, even in its early pre-dementia stage.
Elderly subjects (n = 224) were diagnosed to have no cognitive impairment (NCI), amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI), or AD. Hippocampal and hemispheric gray matter volumes were measured on structural MRI scans, and a new visual rating system (VRS) was used to score the severity of MTA (VRS-MTA) of the hippocampus (HPC), entorhinal cortex (ERC) and perirhinal cortex (PRC) on a coronal image intersecting the mammillary bodies.
Although both VRS-MTA scores and HPC volumes distinguished between NCI, aMCI and AD subjects, aMCI and NCI subjects could be better distinguished using right VRS-MTA scores, in comparison to right HPC volumes. VRS-MTA scores were more highly correlated with episodic memory and Clinical Dementia Rating scores. A combination of left side VRS-MTA scores and left side hippocampal volume was the most predictive measure of diagnostic classification.
VRS-MTA is a clinically convenient method of distinguishing aMCI or AD from NCI. Compared with volumetric measures, it provides better discriminatory power and correlates more strongly with memory and functional scores.
PMCID: PMC3145968  PMID: 21784342
Alzheimer disease; dementia; volumetric analysis; visual rating; brain MRI; medial temporal atrophy; diagnosis; cognitive impairment; neuropsychological tests
22.  Cognitive and Functional Decline in Huntington's Disease: Dementia Criteria Revisited 
The importance of designating criteria for diagnosing dementia lies in its implications for clinical treatment, research, caregiving, and decision-making. Dementia diagnosis in Huntington's disease (HD) is often based on criteria developed for Alzheimer's disease requiring memory loss. However, it is likely that other cognitive deficits contribute to functional impairment in HD before memory declines. The goal is to identify cognitive deficits that contribute to functional impairment to support dementia criteria that reflect HD neuropathology. Eighty-four HD mutation-positive subjects completed neuropsychological tests and the Unified Huntington's Disease Rating Scale Functional Independence Scale (FIS). Functional impairment was defined as 80 or below on the FIS. Speed of processing, initiation, and attention measures accounted for 70.0% of the variance in FIS ratings (linear regression) and correctly classified 91.7% of subjects as functionally impaired or intact (logistic regression). Measures of memory, motor impairment except dysarthria, neuroleptic use, and depressed mood did not improve prediction. A definition of HD dementia that includes cognitive impairment in at least two areas of cognition but does not require a memory deficit, in the context of impaired functional abilities and a deteriorating course, more accurately reflects HD neuropathology and could lead to improved research methods and patient care.
PMCID: PMC2910142  PMID: 20629124
23.  A novel p.Leu(381)Phe mutation in Presenilin 1 is associated with very early onset and unusually fast progressing dementia, and lysosomal inclusions typically seen in Kufs disease 
Whole exome sequencing in a family with suspected dominant Kufs disease identified a novel Presenilin 1 mutation p.Leu(381)Phe in three brothers who, along with their father, developed progressive dementia and motor deficits in their early 30s. All affected relatives had unusually rapid disease progression (on average 3.6 years from disease onset to death). In silico analysis of mutation p.Leu(381)Phe predicted more detrimental effects when compared to the common Presenilin 1 mutation p.Glu(280)Ala. Electron microscopy study of peripheral fibroblast cells of the proband showed lysosomal inclusions typical for Kufs disease. However his brain autopsy demonstrated typical changes of Alzheimer disease.
PMCID: PMC4013718  PMID: 24121961
24.  Presenilin-1 280Glu→Ala Mutation Alters C-Terminal APP Processing Yielding Longer Aβ Peptides: Implications for Alzheimer’s Disease 
Molecular Medicine  2008;14(3-4):184-194.
Presenilin (PS) mutations enhance the production of the Aβ42 peptide that is derived from the amyloid precursor protein (APP). The pathway(s) by which the Aβ42 species is preferentially produced has not been elucidated, nor is the mechanism by which PS mutations produce early-onset dementia established. Using a combination of histological, immunohistochemical, biochemical, and mass spectrometric methods, we examined the structural and morphological nature of the amyloid species produced in a patient expressing the PS1 280Glu→Ala familial Alzheimer’s disease mutation. Abundant diffuse plaques were observed that exhibited a staining pattern and morphology distinct from previously described PS cases, as well as discreet amyloid plaques within the white matter. In addition to finding increased amounts of CT99 and Aβ42 peptides, our investigation revealed the presence of a complex array of Aβ peptides substantially longer than 42/43 amino acid residue species. The increased hydrophobic nature of longer Aβspecies retained within the membrane walls could impact the structure and function of plasma membrane and organelles. These C-terminally longer peptides may, through steric effects, dampen the rate of turnover by critical amyloid degrading enzymes such as neprilysin and insulin degrading enzyme. A complete understanding of the deleterious side effects of membrane bound Aβ as a consequence of γ-secretase alterations is needed to understand Alzheimer’s disease pathophysiology and will aid in the design of therapeutic interventions.
PMCID: PMC2258166  PMID: 18317569
25.  Transmission and spreading of tauopathy in transgenic mouse brain 
Nature cell biology  2009;11(7):909-913.
Hyperphosphorylated tau makes up the filamentous intracellular inclusions of several neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's disease 1. In the disease process neuronal tau inclusions first appear in transentorhinal cortex, from where they appear to spread to hippocampal formation and neocortex 2. Cognitive impairment becomes manifest when inclusions reach the hippocampus, with abundant neocortical tau inclusions and extracellular β-amyloid deposits being the defining pathological hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease. Abundant tau inclusions, in the absence of β-amyloid deposits, define Pick's disease, progressive supranuclear palsy, corticobasal degeneration and other diseases 1. Tau mutations cause familial forms of frontotemporal dementia, establishing that tau protein dysfunction is sufficient to cause neurodegeneration and dementia 3-5. Thus, transgenic mice expressing mutant (e.g. P301S) human tau in nerve cells exhibit the essential features of tauopathies, including neurodegeneration and abundant filaments made of hyperphosphorylated tau protein 6,7. In contrast, mouse lines expressing single isoforms of wild-type human tau do not produce tau filaments or display neurodegeneration 7,8. Here we have used tau-expressing lines to investigate whether experimental tauopathy can be transmitted. We show that the injection of brain extract from mutant P301S tau-expressing mice into the brain of transgenic wild-type tau-expressing animals induces the assembly of wild-type human tau into filaments and the spreading of pathology from the site of injection to neighbouring brain regions.
PMCID: PMC2726961  PMID: 19503072

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