Technological advances have led to greater use of both structural and functional brain imaging to assist with the diagnosis of dementia for the increasing numbers of people with cognitive decline as they age. In current clinical practice, structural imaging (CT or MRI) is used to identify space-occupying lesions and stroke. Functional methods, such as PET scanning of glucose metabolism, could be used to differentiate Alzheimer’s disease from frontotemporal dementia, which helps to guide clinicians in symptomatic treatment strategies. New neuroimaging methods that are currently being developed can measure specific neurotransmitter systems, amyloid plaque and tau tangle concentrations, and neuronal integrity and connectivity. Successful co-development of neuroimaging surrogate markers and preventive treatments might eventually lead to so-called brain-check scans for determining risk of cognitive decline, so that physicians can administer disease-modifying medications, vaccines, or other interventions to avoid future cognitive losses and to delay onset of disease.
Background: Slowing information processing is common among community-dwelling elderly and it predicts greater mortality and disability risk. Slowing information processing is related to brain macro-structural abnormalities. Specifically, greater global atrophy and greater small vessel disease of the white matter (WM) have been associated with slower processing speed. However, community-dwelling elderly with such macro-structural abnormalities can maintain processing speed. The roles of brain micro-structure for slow processing in very old adults living in the community is uncertain, as epidemiological studies relating these brain markers to cognition and in the context of other health characteristics are sparse. Hypothesis: Information processing is cross-sectionally associated with WM micro-structure independent of overt macro-structural abnormalities and also independent of health related characteristics. Methods: Imaging indices of micro-structure diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and magnetization transfer imaging (MTI), macro-structure white matter hyperintensities (WMH), gray matter (GM) volume, digit symbol substitution test (DSST), and health characteristics were measured in 272 elderly (mean age 83 years old, 43% men, 40% black) living in the community. Results: The DTI- and MTI-indices of micro-structure from the normal appearing WM and not from the normal appearing GM were associated with DSST score independent of WMH and GM volumes. Associations were also independent of age, race, gender, mini-mental score, systolic blood pressure, and prevalent myocardial infarction. Interpretation: DTI and MTI-indices of normal appearing WM are indicators of information processing speed in this cohort of very old adults living in the community. Since processing slowing is a potent index of mortality and disability, these indices may serve as biomarkers in prevention or treatment trials of disability.
digit symbol substitution score; oldest old; magnetization transfer; diffusion tensor imaging; white matter
Amyloid-β accumulation in the brain is thought to be one of the earliest events in Alzheimer’s disease, possibly leading to synaptic dysfunction, neurodegeneration and cognitive/functional decline. The earliest detectable changes seen with neuroimaging appear to be amyloid-β accumulation detected by 11C-labelled Pittsburgh compound B positron emission tomography imaging. However, some individuals tolerate high brain amyloid-β loads without developing symptoms, while others progressively decline, suggesting that events in the brain downstream from amyloid-β deposition, such as regional brain atrophy rates, play an important role. The main purpose of this study was to understand the relationship between the regional distributions of increased amyloid-β and the regional distribution of increased brain atrophy rates in patients with mild cognitive impairment. To simultaneously capture the spatial distributions of amyloid-β and brain atrophy rates, we employed the statistical concept of parallel independent component analysis, an effective method for joint analysis of multimodal imaging data. Parallel independent component analysis identified significant relationships between two patterns of amyloid-β deposition and atrophy rates: (i) increased amyloid-β burden in the left precuneus/cuneus and medial-temporal regions was associated with increased brain atrophy rates in the left medial-temporal and parietal regions; and (ii) in contrast, increased amyloid-β burden in bilateral precuneus/cuneus and parietal regions was associated with increased brain atrophy rates in the right medial temporal regions. The spatial distribution of increased amyloid-β and the associated spatial distribution of increased brain atrophy rates embrace a characteristic pattern of brain structures known for a high vulnerability to Alzheimer’s disease pathology, encouraging for the use of 11C-labelled Pittsburgh compound B positron emission tomography measures as early indicators of Alzheimer’s disease. These results may begin to shed light on the mechanisms by which amyloid-β deposition leads to neurodegeneration and cognitive decline and the development of a more specific Alzheimer’s disease-specific imaging signature for diagnosis and use of this knowledge in the development of new anti-therapies for Alzheimer’s disease.
MRI; 11C-PiB PET; Alzheimer’s disease; mild cognitive impairment; amyloid-β; amyloid; brain atrophy rate; multimodal brain imaging
Disruption of functional connectivity between brain regions may represent an early functional consequence of β-amyloid pathology prior to clinical Alzheimer's disease. We aimed to investigate if non-demented older individuals with increased amyloid burden demonstrate disruptions of functional whole-brain connectivity in cortical hubs (brain regions typically highly connected to multiple other brain areas) and if these disruptions are associated with neuronal dysfunction as measured with fluorodeoxyglucose-positron emission tomography. In healthy subjects without cognitive symptoms and patients with mild cognitive impairment, we used positron emission tomography to assess amyloid burden and cerebral glucose metabolism, structural magnetic resonance imaging to quantify atrophy and novel resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging processing methods to calculate whole-brain connectivity. Significant disruptions of whole-brain connectivity were found in amyloid-positive patients with mild cognitive impairment in typical cortical hubs (posterior cingulate cortex/precuneus), strongly overlapping with regional hypometabolism. Subtle connectivity disruptions and hypometabolism were already present in amyloid-positive asymptomatic subjects. Voxel-based morphometry measures indicate that these findings were not solely a consequence of regional atrophy. Whole-brain connectivity values and metabolism showed a positive correlation with each other and a negative correlation with amyloid burden. These results indicate that disruption of functional connectivity and hypometabolism may represent early functional consequences of emerging molecular Alzheimer's disease pathology, evolving prior to clinical onset of dementia. The spatial overlap between hypometabolism and disruption of connectivity in cortical hubs points to a particular susceptibility of these regions to early Alzheimer's-type neurodegeneration and may reflect a link between synaptic dysfunction and functional disconnection.
amyloid; cortical hubs; functional connectivity; metabolism; mild cognitive impairment; positron emission tomography; magnetic resonance imaging
Cognitive impairment in older adults is a major cause of functional disability. Interest in protecting brain health is likely to grow as the US population ages and more people have experiences with cognitive decline. Recent scientific evidence suggests that physical activity, heart-healthy diets, and social involvement may help to maintain brain health. We investigated attitudes about aging well among older African Americans and whites to inform the development of interventions to promote cognitive health.
We used a purposive sample to conduct 5 focus groups with African Americans (n = 42) and 4 with whites (n = 41). Participants also completed a brief survey. In discussions centered on brain health, participants were asked to describe someone they know who is aging well. We used a grounded theory approach to guide the analysis and interpretation of the data.
Both African Americans and whites said that components of aging well include social activity, a strong spiritual life, not taking medications, and traveling. African Americans said aging well means being cognitively intact, free of serious mobility impairment or other health problems, and independent. Whites described aging well as living a long time, staying physically active, maintaining a positive outlook, and having good genes.
African Americans did not commonly associate physical activity with aging well, which suggests that tailored intervention strategies for promoting brain health should emphasize physical activity. African Americans and whites did not commonly associate nutrition with aging well, which also suggests a useful focus for public health interventions.
The rising epidemic of obesity is associated with cognitive decline and is considered as one of the major risk factors for neurodegenerative diseases. Neuroinflammation is a critical component in the progression of several neurological and neurodegenerative diseases. Increased metabolic flux to the brain during overnutrition and obesity can orchestrate stress response, blood-brain barrier (BBB) disruption, recruitment of inflammatory immune cells from peripheral blood and microglial cells activation leading to neuroinflammation. The lack of an effective treatment for obesity-associated brain dysfunction may have far-reaching public health ramifications, urgently necessitating the identification of appropriate preventive and therapeutic strategies. The objective of our study was to investigate the neuroprotective effects of Momordica charantia (bitter melon) on high-fat diet (HFD)-associated BBB disruption, stress and neuroinflammatory cytokines.
C57BL/6 female mice were fed HFD with and without bitter melon (BM) for 16 weeks. BBB disruption was analyzed using Evans blue dye. Phosphate-buffered saline (PBS) perfused brains were analyzed for neuroinflammatory markers such as interleukin-22 (IL-22), IL-17R, IL-16, NF-κB1, and glial cells activation markers such as Iba1, CD11b, GFAP and S100β. Additionally, antioxidant enzymes, ER-stress proteins, and stress-resistant transcription factors, sirtuin 1 (Sirt1) and forkhead box class O transcription factor (FoxO) were analyzed using microarray, quantitative real-time RT-PCR, western immunoblotting and enzymatic assays. Systemic inflammation was analyzed using cytokine antibody array.
BM ameliorated HFD-associated changes in BBB permeability as evident by reduced leakage of Evans blue dye. HFD-induced glial cells activation and expression of neuroinflammatory markers such as NF-κB1, IL-16, IL-22 as well as IL-17R were normalized in the brains of mice supplemented with BM. Similarly, HFD-induced brain oxidative stress was significantly reduced by BM supplementation with a concomitant reduction in FoxO, normalization of Sirt1 protein expression and up-regulation of Sirt3 mRNA expression. Furthermore, plasma antioxidant enzymes and pro-inflammatory cytokines were also normalized in mice fed HFD with BM as compared to HFD-fed mice.
Functional foods such as BM offer a unique therapeutic strategy to improve obesity-associated peripheral inflammation and neuroinflammation.
A challenge in developing informative neuroimaging biomarkers for early diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease is the need to identify biomarkers that are evident before the onset of clinical symptoms, and which have sufficient sensitivity and specificity on an individual patient basis. Recent literature suggests that spatial patterns of brain atrophy discriminate amongst Alzheimer's disease, mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and cognitively normal (CN) older adults with high accuracy on an individual basis, thereby offering promise that subtle brain changes can be detected during prodromal Alzheimer's disease stages. Here, we investigate whether these spatial patterns of brain atrophy can be detected in CN and MCI individuals and whether they are associated with cognitive decline. Images from the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) were used to construct a pattern classifier that recognizes spatial patterns of brain atrophy which best distinguish Alzheimer's disease patients from CN on an individual person basis. This classifier was subsequently applied to longitudinal magnetic resonance imaging scans of CN and MCI participants in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA) neuroimaging study. The degree to which Alzheimer's disease-like patterns were present in CN and MCI subjects was evaluated longitudinally in relation to cognitive performance. The oldest BLSA CN individuals showed progressively increasing Alzheimer's disease-like patterns of atrophy, and individuals with these patterns had reduced cognitive performance. MCI was associated with steeper longitudinal increases of Alzheimer's disease-like patterns of atrophy, which separated them from CN (receiver operating characteristic area under the curve equal to 0.89). Our results suggest that imaging-based spatial patterns of brain atrophy of Alzheimer's disease, evaluated with sophisticated pattern analysis and recognition methods, may be useful in discriminating among CN individuals who are likely to be stable versus those who will show cognitive decline. Future prospective studies will elucidate the temporal dynamics of spatial atrophy patterns and the emergence of clinical symptoms.
early Alzheimer's disease; mild cognitive impairment; neuroimaging; ageing; SPARE-AD
Purpose of review
Research in geriatric depression has always had a multidisciplinary bent, particularly in methods used to characterize depression. Understanding diagnosis, psychiatric comorbidities, and course continues to be a goal of clinical researchers. Those interested in cognitive neuroscience and basic neuroscience have more recently trained their sights on late life depression. This review identifies recent progress in the characterization of geriatric depression using a variety of methodologies.
Depression in the elderly remains underdetected and underdiagnosed, particularly in non-mental health settings. Studies of the impact of psychiatric comorbidities and of the negative outcomes of depression in older adults demonstrate that geriatric depression is a serious medical condition that not only affects mood, but can lead to functional and cognitive decline. Advances in neuroimaging technology have demonstrated structural and functional changes in the brains of older depressed patients. With the advent of brain banks in neuropsychiatry, we are now seeing post-mortem neuroanatomical studies that seek to replicate findings from clinical practice and from neuroimaging studies.
Clinicians should become more aware of advances in detection of depression, the effect of psychiatric comorbidities, and the poor mood and cognitive outcomes associated with late life depression, and should keep abreast of recent neuroimaging and neuroanatomical findings.
The targeted brain dysfunction that accompanies aging can have a devastating effect on cognitive and intellectual abilities. A significant proportion of older adults experience precipitous cognitive decline that negatively impacts functional activities. Such individuals meet clinical diagnostic criteria for dementia, which is commonly attributed to Alzheimer's disease (AD). Structural neuroimaging, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), has contributed significantly to our understanding of the morphological and pathology-related changes that may underlie normal and disease-associated cognitive change in aging. White matter hyperintensities (WMH), which are distributed patches of increased hyperintense signal on T2-weighted MRI, are among the most common structural neuroimaging findings in older adults. In recent years, WMH have emerged as robust radiological correlates of cognitive decline. Studies suggest that WMH distributed in anterior brain regions are related to decline in executive abilities that is typical of normal aging whereas WMH distributed in more posterior brain regions are common in AD. Although epidemiological, observational, and pathological studies suggest that WMH may be ischemic in origin and caused by consistent or variable hypoperfusion, there is emerging evidence that they may also reflect vascular deposition of β-amyloid, particularly when they are distributed in posterior areas and are present in patients with AD. Findings from the literature highlight the potential contribution of small vessel cerebrovascular disease to the pathogenesis of AD and suggest a mechanistic interaction, but future longitudinal studies using multiple imaging modalities are required to fully understand the complex role of WMH in AD.
The targeted brain dysfunction that accompanies aging can have a devastating effect on cognitive and intellectual abilities. A significant proportion of older adults experience precipitous cognitive decline that negatively impacts functional activities. Such individuals meet clinical diagnostic criteria for dementia, which is commonly attributed to Alzheimer's disease (AD). Structural neuroimaging, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), has contributed significantly to our understanding of the morphological and pathology-related changes that may underlie normal and disease-associated cognitive change in aging. White matter hyperintensities (WMH), which are distributed patches of increased hyperintense signal on T2-weighted MRI, are among the most common structural neuroimaging findings in older adults. In recent years, WMH have emerged as robust radiological correlates of cognitive decline. Studies suggest that WMH distributed in anterior brain regions are related to decline in executive abilities that is typical of normal aging, whereas WMH distributed in more posterior brain regions are common in AD. Although epidemiological, observational, and pathological studies suggest that WMH may be ischemic in origin and caused by consistent or variable hypoperfusion, there is emerging evidence that they may also reflect vascular deposition of (β-amyloid, particularly when they are distributed in posterior areas and are present in patients with AD. Findings from the literature highlight the potential contribution of small-vessel cerebrovascular disease to the pathogenesis of AD, and suggest a mechanistic interaction, but future longitudinal studies using multiple imaging modalities are required to fully understand the complex role of WMH in AD.
Alzheimer's disease; MRI; white matter hyperintensity; beta amyloid
Reports of cognitive decline, symptom worsening and brain atrophy in bipolar disorder (BD) suggests that the disease progresses over time. The worsening neuropathology may involve excitotoxicity and neuroinflammation. We determined protein and mRNA levels of excitotoxicity and neuroinflammatory markers in postmortem frontal cortex from 10 BD patients and 10 age-matched controls. The brain tissue was matched for age, postmortem interval and pH. The results indicated statistically significant lower protein and mRNA levels of the NMDA receptors, NR-1 and NR-3A, but significantly higher protein and mRNA levels of IL-1β, the IL-1 receptor, myeloid differentiation factor 88 (MyD88), nuclear factor-kappa B subunits and astroglial and microglial markers (glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS)), c-fos and CD11b) in postmortem frontal cortex from BD compared with control subjects. There was no significant difference in mRNA levels of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα) or neuronal nNOS in the same region. These data demonstrate the presence of excitotoxicity and neuroinflammation in BD frontal cortex, with particular activation of the IL-R cascade. The changes may account for reported evidence of disease progression in BD, and be a target for future therapy.
Arachidonic acid cascade; bipolar disorder; IL-1beta; NMDA receptors; excitotoxicity; inflammation; mood stabilizers; post-mortem brain
Time-dependent changes in brain activity were assessed in a group of older adults who maintained good physical and cognitive health at Years 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9 of the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging neuroimaging study. Each year, these participants underwent PET scans during rest and delayed verbal and figural recognition memory conditions. While memory performance remained stable over the 8 years, both generalized and modality-specific patterns of time-dependent changes in regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) were found. Many brain regions showed steady, progressive changes in rCBF over the 8 years while others maintained rCBF for a number of years before showing incremental declines or increases in activity. These temporal patterns of change were observed in many regions of the brain, particularly in the frontal and temporal lobes, suggesting that there are distinctive patterns of age-related functional decline and compensatory activity over time. The precise patterns of regional involvement and the temporal dynamics of rCBF change within specific regions vary based on cognitive processing demands.
positron emission tomography; functional imaging; neuroimaging; brain function; age; aging; verbal; spatial; memory
Age is the strongest risk factor for sporadic Alzheimer disease (AD), yet the effects of age on rates of clinical decline and brain atrophy in AD have been largely unexplored. Here, we examined longitudinal rates of change as a function of baseline age for measures of clinical decline and structural MRI-based regional brain atrophy, in cohorts of AD, mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and cognitively healthy (HC) individuals aged 65 to 90 years (total n = 723). The effect of age was modeled using mixed effects linear regression. There was pronounced reduction in rates of clinical decline and atrophy with age for AD and MCI individuals, whereas HCs showed increased rates of clinical decline and atrophy with age. This resulted in convergence in rates of change for HCs and patients with advancing age for several measures. Baseline cerebrospinal fluid densities of AD-relevant proteins, Aβ1–42, tau, and phospho-tau181p (ptau), showed a similar pattern of convergence with advanced age across cohorts, particularly for ptau. In contrast, baseline clinical measures did not differ by age, indicating uniformity of clinical severity at baseline. These results imply that the phenotypic expression of AD is relatively mild in individuals older than approximately 85 years, and this may affect the ability to distinguish AD from normal aging in the very old. Our findings show that inclusion of older individuals in clinical trials will substantially reduce the power to detect disease-modifying therapeutic effects, leading to dramatic increases in required clinical trial sample sizes with age of study sample.
Physiological brain aging is characterized by synapses loss and neurodegeneration that slowly lead to an age-related decline of cognition. Neural/synaptic redundancy and plastic remodelling of brain networking, also due to mental and physical training, promotes maintenance of brain activity in healthy elderly subjects for everyday life and good social behaviour and intellectual capabilities. However, age is the major risk factor for most common neurodegenerative disorders that impact on cognition, like Alzheimer's disease (AD). Brain electromagnetic activity is a feature of neuronal network function in various brain regions. Modern neurophysiological techniques, such as electroencephalography (EEG) and event-related potentials (ERPs), are useful tools in the investigation of brain cognitive function in normal and pathological aging with an excellent time resolution. These techniques can index normal and abnormal brain aging analysis of corticocortical connectivity and neuronal synchronization of rhythmic oscillations at various frequencies. The present review suggests that discrimination between physiological and pathological brain aging clearly emerges at the group level, with suggested applications also at the level of single individual. The possibility of combining the use of EEG together with biological/neuropsychological markers and structural/functional imaging is promising for a low-cost, non-invasive, and widely available assessment of groups of individuals at-risk.
Prior studies have documented a range of brain changes that occur as a result of healthy aging as well as neural alterations due to profound dysregulation in vascular health such as extreme hypertension, cerebrovascular disease and stroke. In contrast, little information exists about the more transitionary state between the normal and abnormal physiology that contributes to vascular disease and cognitive decline. Specifically, little information exists with regard to the influence of systemic vascular physiology on brain tissue structure in older individuals with low risk for cerebrovascular disease and with no evidence of cognitive impairment. We examined the association between resting blood pressure and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) indices of white matter microstructure in 128 healthy older adults (43–87 years) spanning the normotensive to moderate-severe hypertensive range. Mean arterial blood pressure (MABP) was related to diffusion measures in several regions of the brain with greatest associations in the anterior corpus callosum and lateral frontal, precentral, superior frontal, lateral parietal and precuneus white matter. Associations between white matter integrity and blood pressure remained when controlling for age, when controlling for white matter lesions, and when limiting the analyses to only normotensive, pharmacologically controlled and prehypertensive individuals. Of the diffusion measures examined, associations were strongest between MABP and radial diffusivity which may indicate that blood pressure has an influence on myelin structure. Associations between MABP and white matter integrity followed spatial patterns resembling those often attributed to the effects of chronological age, suggesting that systemic cerebrovascular health may play a role in neural tissue degeneration classically ascribed to aging. These results demonstrate the importance of the consideration of vascular physiology in studies of cognitive and neural aging, and that this significance extends to even the normotensive and medically controlled population. These data additionally suggest that optimal management of blood pressure may require consideration of the more subtle influence of vascular health on neural health in addition to the primary goal of prevention of a major cerebrovascular event.
In recent years, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected patients under highly active anti-retroviral therapy (HAART) regimens have shown a markedly improved general clinical status; however, the prevalence of mild cognitive disorders has increased. We propose that increased longevity with HIV-mediated chronic inflammation combined with the secondary effects of HAART may increase the risk of early brain aging as shown by intra-neuronal accumulation of abnormal protein aggregates like amyloid β (Aβ), which might participate in worsening the neurodegenerative process and cognitive impairment in older patients with HIV. For this purpose, levels and distribution of Aβ immunoreactivity were analyzed in the frontal cortex of 43 patients with HIV (ages 38–60) and HIV− age-matched controls. Subcellular localization of the Aβ-immunoreactive material was analyzed by double labeling and confocal microscopy and by immunono-electron microscopy (EM). Compared to HIV− cases, in HIV+ cases, there was abundant intracellular Aβ immunostaining in pyramidal neurons and along axonal tracts. Cases with HIV encephalitis (HIVE) had higher levels of intraneuronal Aβ immunoreactivity compared to HIV+ cases with no HIVE. Moreover, levels of intracellular Aβ correlated with age in the group with HIVE. Double-labeling analysis showed that the Aβ-immunoreactive granules in the neurons co-localized with lysosomal markers such as cathepsin-D and LC3. Ultrastructural analysis by immuno-EM has confirmed that in these cases, intracellular Aβ was often found in structures displaying morphology similar to autophagosomes. These findings suggest that long-term survival with HIV might interfere with clearance of proteins such as Aβ and worsen neuronal damage and cognitive impairment in this population.
HIV; AIDS; amyloid; encephalitis; protein aggregation
Cognitive dysfunction is of frequent observation in multiple sclerosis (MS). It is associated with gray matter pathology, brain atrophy, and altered connectivity, and recent evidence showed that acute inflammation can exacerbate mental deficits independently of the primary functional system involved. In this study, we measured cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) levels of amyloid-β1−42 and τ protein in MS and in clinically isolated syndrome patients, as both proteins have been associated with cognitive decline in Alzheimer's disease (AD). In AD, amyloid-β1–42 accumulates in the brain as insoluble extracellular plaques, possibly explaining why soluble amyloid-β1–42 is reduced in the CSF of these patients. In our sample of MS patients, amyloid-β1–42 levels were significantly lower in patients cognitively impaired (CI) and were inversely correlated with the number of Gadolinium-enhancing (Gd+) lesions at the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Positive correlations between amyloid-β1–42 levels and measures of attention and concentration were also found. Furthermore, abnormal neuroplasticity of the cerebral cortex, explored with θ burst stimulation (TBS), was observed in CI patients, and a positive correlation was found between amyloid-β1–42 CSF contents and the magnitude of long-term potentiation-like effects induced by TBS. No correlation was conversely found between τ protein concentrations and MRI findings, cognitive parameters, and TBS effects in these patients. Together, our results indicate that in MS, central inflammation is able to alter amyloid-β metabolism by reducing its concentration in the CSF and leading to impairment of synaptic plasticity and cognitive function.
cognition; inflammation; LTP; τ protein; transcranial magnetic stimulation; Alzheimer's disease; cognition; plasticity; neurodegeneration/neuroprotection; inflammation; LTP; τ protein; transcranial magnetic stimulation
The association between small but still visible lacunar infarcts and cognitive decline has been established by multiple population-based radiological and pathological studies. Microscopic examination of brain sections reveals even smaller but substantially more numerous microinfarcts, the focus of the current review. These lesions often result from small vessel pathologies such as arteriolosclerosis or cerebral amyloid angiopathy. They typically go undetected in clinical-radiological correlation studies that rely on conventional structural MRI, though the largest acute microinfarcts may be detectable by diffusion-weighted imaging. Given their high numbers and widespread distribution, microinfarcts may directly disrupt important cognitive networks and thus account for some of the neurologic dysfunction seen in association with lesions visible on conventional MRI such as lacunar infarcts and white matter hyperintensities. Standardized neuropathological assessment criteria and development of non-invasive means of detection during life would be major steps towards understanding the causes and consequences of the otherwise macroscopically invisible microinfarct.
As the population ages, risks for cognitive decline threaten independence and quality of life for older adults and present challenges to the health care system. Nurses are in a unique position to advise clients about cognitive health promotion and to develop interventions that optimize cognition in the growing aging population. A literature review was completed to provide nurses working in mental health and geriatric care with an overview of research related to the promotion of successful cognitive aging for older adults. Research evaluating cognitively stimulating lifestyles and the effects on cognitive function of older adults of interventions targeting cognitive training, physical activity, social engagement, and nutrition were reviewed. Overall research findings support positive effects of cognitive and physical activity, social engagement, and therapeutic nutrition in optimizing cognitive aging. However, the strength of the research evidence is limited by research designs. Conclusions include recommended applications for health promotion to optimize cognitive aging and future direction for research.
Cognition and Aging; Interventions; Health Promotion
Aging and physical inactivity are associated with declines in some cognitive domains and cerebrovascular function, as well as an elevated risk of cerebrovascular disease and other morbidities. With the increase in the number of sedentary older Canadians, promoting healthy brain aging is becoming an increasingly important population health issue. Emerging research suggests that higher levels of physical fitness at any age are associated with better cognitive functioning and this may be mediated, at least in part, by improvements in cerebrovascular reserve. We are currently conducting a study to determine: if a structured 6-month aerobic exercise program is associated with improvements or maintenance of both cerebrovascular function and cognitive abilities in older individuals; and, the extent to which any changes seen persist 6 months after the completion of the structured exercise program.
Two hundred and fifty men and women aged 55–80 years are being enrolled into an 18-month combined quasi-experimental and prospective cohort study. Participants are eligible for enrollment into the study if they are inactive (i.e., not participating in regular physical activity), non-smokers, have a body mass index <35.0 kg/m2, are free of significant cognitive impairment (defined as a Montreal Cognitive Assessment score of 24 or more), and do not have clinically significant cardiovascular, cerebrovascular disease, or chronic obstructive pulmonary airway disease. Repeated measurements are done during three sequential six-month phases: 1) pre-intervention; 2) aerobic exercise intervention; and 3) post-intervention. These outcomes include: cardiorespiratory fitness, resting cerebral blood flow, cerebrovascular reserve, and cognitive function.
This is the first study to our knowledge that will examine contemporaneously the effect of an exercise intervention on both cerebrovascular reserve and cognition in an older population. This study will further our understanding of whether cerebrovascular mechanisms might explain how exercise promotes healthy brain aging. In addition our study will address the potential of increasing physical activity to prevent age-associated cognitive decline.
Physical fitness; Cerebrovascular function; Cognition; Aging
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is associated with functional and structural alterations in a distributed network of brain regions supporting memory and other cognitive domains. Functional abnormalities are present in mild cognitive impairment (MCI) with evidence of early hyperactivity in medial temporal lobe regions, followed by failure of hippocampal activation as dementia develops. Atrophy in a consistent set of cortical regions, the “cortical signature of AD,” has been reported at the stage of dementia, MCI, and even in clinically normal (CN) older individuals predicted to develop AD. Despite multiple lines of evidence for each of these findings, the relationship between this structural marker of AD-related neurodegeneration and this functional marker of the integrity of the episodic memory system has not yet been elucidated. We investigated this relationship in 34 nondemented older humans (CN, N = 18; MCI, N = 16). Consistent with previous studies, we found evidence of hippocampal hyperactivation in MCI compared with CN. Additionally, within this MCI group, increased hippocampal activation correlated with cortical thinning in AD-signature regions. Even within the CN group, increased hippocampal activity was negatively correlated with cortical thinning in a subset of regions, including the superior parietal lobule (r = −0.66; p < 0.01). These findings, across a continuum of nondemented and mildly impaired older adults, support the hypothesis that paradoxically increased hippocampal activity may be an early indicator of AD-related neurodegeneration in a distributed network.
The pathogenesis of inflammation in the central nervous system (CNS), which contributes to numerous neurodegenerative diseases and results in encephalopathy and neuroinflammation, is poorly understood. Sphingolipid metabolism plays a crucial role in maintaining cellular processes in the CNS, and thus mediates the various pathological consequences of inflammation. For a better understanding of the role of sphingosine kinase activation during neuroinflammation, we developed a bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced brain injury model. The onset of the inflammatory response was observed beginning 4 hours after intracerebral injection of LPS into the lateral ventricles of the brain. A comparison of established neuroinflammatory parameters such as white matter rarefactions, development of cytotoxic edema, astrogliosis, loss of oligodendrocytes, and major cytokines levels in wild type and knockout mice suggested that the neuroinflammatory response in SphK1−/− mice was significantly upregulated. At 6 hours after intracerebroventricular injection of LPS in SphK1−/− mice, the immunoreactivity of the microglia markers and astrocyte marker glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) were significantly increased, while the oligodendrocyte marker O4 was decreased compared to WT mice. Furthermore, western blotting data showed increased levels of GFAP. These results suggest that SphK1 activation is involved in the regulation of LPS induced brain injury.
• Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) intracerebral injection induces severe neuroinflammation. • Sphingosine kinase 1 deletion worsens the effect of the LPS. • Overexpression of SphK1 might be a potential new treatment approach to neuroinflammation.
Neuroimaging studies of apolipoprotein E (APOEε4) have implicated its association with brain atrophy in Alzheimer’s disease. To date, few studies have used automated morphological analysis techniques to assess APOEε4-related brain structure change in both gray and white matter in nondemented older adults. Nondemented (CDR = 0, n = 53) subjects over 60 had MRI, diffusion tensor imaging, and neurocognitive assessments. We assessed differences in cognition and brain structure associated with APOEε4 genetic variation using voxel-based morphometry techniques, and tract-based spatial statistics of fractional anisotropy change. In nondemented older adults with the ε4 allele, cognitive performance was reduced, and atrophy was present in the hippocampus and amygdala compared to APOEε4 negative participants. We also report that ε4 carriers have decreased fractional anisotropy in the left parahippocampal gyrus white matter. In conclusion, the presence of an APOEε4 allele in nondemented older adults is associated with decreases in cognition and gray and white matter changes in the medial temporal cortex. Overall we provide further evidence of the effects of genetic variance related to imaging and cognitive measures of risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
Aging; Alzheimer’s disease; apolipoprotein (APOE); cognition; dementia; diffusion tensor imaging (DTI); fractional anisotropy (FA); genetics; hippocampus; voxel-based morphometry (VBM)
A central issue in cognitive neuroscience of aging research is pinpointing precise neural mechanisms that determine cognitive outcome in late adulthood as well as identifying early markers of less successful cognitive aging. One promising biomarker is beta amyloid (Aβ) deposition. Several new radiotracers have been developed that bind to fibrillar Aβ providing sensitive estimates of amyloid deposition in various brain regions. Aβ imaging has been primarily used to study patients with Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and individuals with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI); however, there is now building data on Aβ deposition in healthy controls that suggest at least 20% and perhaps as much as a third of healthy older adults show significant deposition. Considerable evidence suggests amyloid deposition precedes declines in cognition and may be the initiator in a cascade of events that indirectly leads to age-related cognitive decline. We review studies of Aβ deposition imaging in AD, MCI, and normal adults, its cognitive consequences, and the role of genetic risk and cognitive reserve.
Aging; Beta-amyloid; Brain; Cognitive reserve; fMRI; PET
To assess whether markers of micro- and macro-structural brain abnormalities are associated with slower gait in older men and women independent of each other, and also independent of health-related conditions and of behavioral, cognitive and peripheral function.
Magnetization transfer ratio [MTR], white matter hyperintensities [WMH], brain atrophy [BA] and brain infarcts [BI] were measured in 795 participants of the AGES-Reykjavik Study cohort (mean 75.6yrs, 58.9% women).
In women, lower MTR, higher WMH and BA, but not BI, remained associated with slower gait independent of each other and of other covariates. In men, WMH and BA, but not MTR or BI, remained associated with slower gait independently of each other. Only muscle strength, executive control function and depression test scores substantially attenuated these associations.
MTR in older adults may be an important additional marker of brain abnormalities associated with slower gait. Studies to explore the relationship between brain micro- and macrostructural abnormalities with gait and the role of mediating factors are warranted.
MTR; gait speed; community-dwelling seniors