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1.  Epidemiological Pathology of Dementia: Attributable-Risks at Death in the Medical Research Council Cognitive Function and Ageing Study 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(11):e1000180.
Researchers from the Medical Research Council Cognitive Function and Ageing Neuropathology Study carry out an analysis of brain pathologies contributing to dementia, within a cohort of elderly individuals in the UK who agreed to brain donation.
Dementia drug development aims to modulate pathological processes that cause clinical syndromes. Population data (epidemiological neuropathology) will help to model and predict the potential impact of such therapies on dementia burden in older people. Presently this can only be explored through post mortem findings. We report the attributable risks (ARs) for dementia at death for common age-related degenerative and vascular pathologies, and other factors, in the MRC Cognitive Function and Ageing Study (MRC CFAS).
Methods and Findings
A multicentre, prospective, longitudinal study of older people in the UK was linked to a brain donation programme. Neuropathology of 456 consecutive brain donations assessed degenerative and vascular pathologies. Logistic regression modelling, with bootstrapping and sensitivity analyses, was used to estimate AR at death for dementia for specific pathologies and other factors. The main contributors to AR at death for dementia in MRC CFAS were age (18%), small brain (12%), neocortical neuritic plaques (8%) and neurofibrillary tangles (11%), small vessel disease (12%), multiple vascular pathologies (9%), and hippocampal atrophy (10%). Other significant factors include cerebral amyloid angiopathy (7%) and Lewy bodies (3%).
Such AR estimates cannot be derived from the living population; rather they estimate the relative contribution of specific pathologies to dementia at death. We found that multiple pathologies determine the overall burden of dementia. The impact of therapy targeted to a specific pathology may be profound when the dementia is relatively “pure,” but may be less impressive for the majority with mixed disease, and in terms of the population. These data justify a range of strategies, and combination therapies, to combat the degenerative and vascular determinants of cognitive decline and dementia.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Losing one's belongings and forgetting people's names is often a normal part of aging. But increasing forgetfulness can also be a sign of dementia, a group of symptoms caused by several disorders that affect the structure of the brain. The commonest form of dementia is Alzheimer disease. In this, protein clumps called plaques and neurofibrillary tangles form in the brain and cause its degeneration. Vascular dementia, in which problems with blood circulation deprive parts of the brain of oxygen, is also common. People with dementia have problems with two or more “cognitive” functions—thinking, language, memory, understanding, and judgment. As the disease progresses, they gradually lose their ability to deal with normal daily activities until they need total care, their personality often changes, and they may become agitated or aggressive. Dementia is rare before the age of 65 years but about a quarter of people over 85 years old have dementia. Because more people live to a ripe old age these days, the number of people with dementia is increasing. According to the latest estimates, about 35 million people now have dementia and by 2050, 115 million may have the disorder.
Why Was This Study Done?
There is no cure for dementia but many drugs designed to modulate specific abnormal (pathological) changes in the brain that can cause the symptoms of dementia are being developed. To assess the likely impact of these potentially expensive new therapies, experts need to know what proportion of dementia is associated with each type of brain pathology. Although some brain changes can be detected in living brains with techniques such as computed tomography brain scans, most brain changes can only be studied in brains taken from people after death (post mortem brains). In this study, which is part of the UK Medical Research Council Cognitive Function and Ageing Study (MRC CFAS), the researchers look for associations between dementia in elderly people and pathological changes in their post mortem brains and estimate the attributable-risk (AR) for dementia at death associated with specific pathological features in the brain. That is, they estimate the proportion of dementia directly attributable to each type of pathology.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Nearly 20 years ago, the MRC CFAS interviewed more than 18,000 people aged 65 years or older recruited at six sites in England and Wales to determine their cognitive function and their ability to deal with daily activities. 20% of the participants, which included people with and without cognitive impairment, were then assessed in more detail and invited to donate their brains for post mortem examination. As of 2004, 456 individuals had donated their brains. The dementia status of these donors was established using data from their assessment interviews and death certificates, and from interviews with relatives and carers, and their brains were carefully examined for abnormal changes. The researchers then used statistical methods to estimate the AR for dementia at death associated with various abnormal brain changes. The main contributors to AR for dementia at death included age (18% of dementia at death was attributable to this factor), plaques (8%), and neurofibrillary tangles (11%) in a brain region called the neocortex, small blood vessel disease (12%), and multiple abnormal changes in blood vessels (9%).
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that multiple abnormal brain changes determine the overall burden of dementia. Importantly, they also suggest that dementia is often associated with mixed pathological changes—many people with dementia had brain changes consistent with both Alzheimer disease and vascular dementia. Because people with dementia live for variable lengths of time during which the abnormal changes in their brain are likely to alter, it may be difficult to extrapolate these findings to living populations of elderly people. Furthermore, only a small percentage of the MRC CFAS participants have donated their brains so the findings of this study may not apply to the general population. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that the new therapies currently under development may do little to reduce the overall burden of dementia because most people's dementia involves multiple pathologies. Consequently, it may be necessary to develop a range of strategies and combination therapies to deal with the ongoing dementia epidemic.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The US National Institute on Aging provides information for patients and carers about forgetfulness and about Alzheimer disease (in English and Spanish)
The US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke provides information about dementia (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service Choices Web site also provides detailed information for patients and their carers about dementia and about Alzheimer disease
MedlinePlus provides links to additional resources about dementia and Alzheimer disease (in English and Spanish)
More information about the UK Medical Research Council Cognitive Function and Ageing Study (MRC CFAS) is available
PMCID: PMC2765638  PMID: 19901977
2.  Computerized Cognitive Training in Cognitively Healthy Older Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Effect Modifiers 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(11):e1001756.
Michael Valenzuela and colleagues systematically review and meta-analyze the evidence that computerized cognitive training improves cognitive skills in older adults with normal cognition.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
New effective interventions to attenuate age-related cognitive decline are a global priority. Computerized cognitive training (CCT) is believed to be safe and can be inexpensive, but neither its efficacy in enhancing cognitive performance in healthy older adults nor the impact of design factors on such efficacy has been systematically analyzed. Our aim therefore was to quantitatively assess whether CCT programs can enhance cognition in healthy older adults, discriminate responsive from nonresponsive cognitive domains, and identify the most salient design factors.
Methods and Findings
We systematically searched Medline, Embase, and PsycINFO for relevant studies from the databases' inception to 9 July 2014. Eligible studies were randomized controlled trials investigating the effects of ≥4 h of CCT on performance in neuropsychological tests in older adults without dementia or other cognitive impairment. Fifty-two studies encompassing 4,885 participants were eligible. Intervention designs varied considerably, but after removal of one outlier, heterogeneity across studies was small (I2 = 29.92%). There was no systematic evidence of publication bias. The overall effect size (Hedges' g, random effects model) for CCT versus control was small and statistically significant, g = 0.22 (95% CI 0.15 to 0.29). Small to moderate effect sizes were found for nonverbal memory, g = 0.24 (95% CI 0.09 to 0.38); verbal memory, g = 0.08 (95% CI 0.01 to 0.15); working memory (WM), g = 0.22 (95% CI 0.09 to 0.35); processing speed, g = 0.31 (95% CI 0.11 to 0.50); and visuospatial skills, g = 0.30 (95% CI 0.07 to 0.54). No significant effects were found for executive functions and attention. Moderator analyses revealed that home-based administration was ineffective compared to group-based training, and that more than three training sessions per week was ineffective versus three or fewer. There was no evidence for the effectiveness of WM training, and only weak evidence for sessions less than 30 min. These results are limited to healthy older adults, and do not address the durability of training effects.
CCT is modestly effective at improving cognitive performance in healthy older adults, but efficacy varies across cognitive domains and is largely determined by design choices. Unsupervised at-home training and training more than three times per week are specifically ineffective. Further research is required to enhance efficacy of the intervention.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
As we get older, we notice many bodily changes. Our hair goes grey, we develop new aches and pains, and getting out of bed in the morning takes longer than it did when we were young. Our brain may also show signs of aging. It may take us longer to learn new information, we may lose our keys more frequently, and we may forget people's names. Cognitive decline—developing worsened thinking, language, memory, understanding, and judgment—can be a normal part of aging, but it can also be an early sign of dementia, a group of brain disorders characterized by a severe, irreversible decline in cognitive functions. We know that age-related physical decline can be attenuated by keeping physically active; similarly, engaging in activities that stimulate the brain throughout life is thought to enhance cognition in later life and reduce the risk of age-related cognitive decline and dementia. Thus, having an active social life and doing challenging activities that stimulate both the brain and the body may help to stave off cognitive decline.
Why Was This Study Done?
“Brain training” may be another way of keeping mentally fit. The sale of computerized cognitive training (CCT) packages, which provide standardized, cognitively challenging tasks designed to “exercise” various cognitive functions, is a lucrative and expanding business. But does CCT work? Given the rising global incidence of dementia, effective interventions that attenuate age-related cognitive decline are urgently needed. However, the impact of CCT on cognitive performance in older adults is unclear, and little is known about what makes a good CCT package. In this systematic review and meta-analysis, the researchers assess whether CCT programs improve cognitive test performance in cognitively healthy older adults and identify the aspects of cognition (cognitive domains) that are responsive to CCT, and the CCT design features that are most important in improving cognitive performance. A systematic review uses pre-defined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic; meta-analysis uses statistical methods to combine the results of several studies.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 51 trials that investigated the effects of more than four hours of CCT on nearly 5,000 cognitively healthy older adults by measuring several cognitive functions before and after CCT. Meta-analysis of these studies indicated that the overall effect size for CCT (compared to control individuals who did not participate in CCT) was small but statistically significant. An effect size quantifies the difference between two groups; a statistically significant result is a result that is unlikely to have occurred by chance. So, the meta-analysis suggests that CCT slightly increased overall cognitive function. Notably, CCT also had small to moderate significant effects on individual cognitive functions. For example, some CCT slightly improved nonverbal memory (the ability to remember visual images) and working memory (the ability to remember recent events; short-term memory). However, CCT had no significant effect on executive functions (cognitive processes involved in planning and judgment) or attention (selective concentration on one aspect of the environment). The design of CCT used in the different studies varied considerably, and “moderator” analyses revealed that home-based CCT was not effective, whereas center-based CCT was effective, and that training sessions undertaken more than three times a week were not effective. There was also some weak evidence suggesting that CCT sessions lasting less than 30 minutes may be ineffective. Finally, there was no evidence for the effectiveness of working memory training by itself (for example, programs that ask individuals to recall series of letters).
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that CCT produces small improvements in cognitive performance in cognitively healthy older adults but that the efficacy of CCT varies across cognitive domains and is largely determined by design aspects of CCT. The most important result was that “do-it-yourself” CCT at home did not produce improvements. Rather, the small improvements seen were in individuals supervised by a trainer in a center and undergoing sessions 1–3 times a week. Because only cognitively healthy older adults were enrolled in the studies considered in this systematic review and meta-analysis, these findings do not necessarily apply to cognitively impaired individuals. Moreover, because all the included studies measured cognitive function immediately after CCT, these findings provide no information about the durability of the effects of CCT or about how the effects of CCT on cognitive function translate into real-life outcomes for individuals such as independence and the long-term risk of dementia. The researchers call, therefore, for additional research into CCT, an intervention that might help to attenuate age-related cognitive decline and improve the quality of life for older individuals.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Druin Burch
The US National Institute on Aging provides information for patients and carers about age-related forgetfulness, about memory and cognitive health, and about dementia (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service Choices website also provides information about dementia and about memory loss
MedlinePlus provides links to additional resources about memory, mild cognitive impairment, and dementia (in English and Spanish)
PMCID: PMC4236015  PMID: 25405755
3.  Cognitive reserve in ageing and Alzheimer's disease 
Lancet neurology  2012;11(11):1006-1012.
The concept of reserve accounts for individual differences in susceptibility to age-related brain changes or Alzheimer's disease-related pathology. There is evidence that some people can tolerate more of these changes than others and still maintain function. Epidemiologic studies suggest that lifetime exposures including educational and occupational attainment, and leisure activities in late life, can increase this reserve. For example, there is a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer's disease in individuals with higher educational or occupational attainment. It is convenient to think of two types of reserve: brain reserve, which refers to actual differences in the brain itself that may increase tolerance of pathology, and cognitive reserve. Cognitive reserve refers to individual differences in how tasks are performed that may allow some people to be more resilient than others. The concept of cognitive reserve holds out the promise of interventions that could slow cognitive aging or reduce the risk of dementia.
PMCID: PMC3507991  PMID: 23079557
4.  Prevalence, Distribution, and Impact of Mild Cognitive Impairment in Latin America, China, and India: A 10/66 Population-Based Study 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(2):e1001170.
A set of cross-sectional surveys carried out in Cuba, Dominican Republic, Peru, Mexico, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, China, and India reveal the prevalence and between-country variation in mild cognitive impairment at a population level.
Rapid demographic ageing is a growing public health issue in many low- and middle-income countries (LAMICs). Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a construct frequently used to define groups of people who may be at risk of developing dementia, crucial for targeting preventative interventions. However, little is known about the prevalence or impact of MCI in LAMIC settings.
Methods and Findings
Data were analysed from cross-sectional surveys established by the 10/66 Dementia Research Group and carried out in Cuba, Dominican Republic, Peru, Mexico, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, China, and India on 15,376 individuals aged 65+ without dementia. Standardised assessments of mental and physical health, and cognitive function were carried out including informant interviews. An algorithm was developed to define Mayo Clinic amnestic MCI (aMCI). Disability (12-item World Health Organization disability assessment schedule [WHODAS]) and informant-reported neuropsychiatric symptoms (neuropsychiatric inventory [NPI-Q]) were measured. After adjustment, aMCI was associated with disability, anxiety, apathy, and irritability (but not depression); between-country heterogeneity in these associations was only significant for disability. The crude prevalence of aMCI ranged from 0.8% in China to 4.3% in India. Country differences changed little (range 0.6%–4.6%) after standardization for age, gender, and education level. In pooled estimates, aMCI was modestly associated with male gender and fewer assets but was not associated with age or education. There was no significant between-country variation in these demographic associations.
An algorithm-derived diagnosis of aMCI showed few sociodemographic associations but was consistently associated with higher disability and neuropsychiatric symptoms in addition to showing substantial variation in prevalence across LAMIC populations. Longitudinal data are needed to confirm findings—in particular, to investigate the predictive validity of aMCI in these settings and risk/protective factors for progression to dementia; however, the large number affected has important implications in these rapidly ageing settings.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Currently, more than 35 million people worldwide have dementia, a group of brain disorders characterized by an irreversible decline in memory, problem solving, communication, and other “cognitive” functions. Dementia, the commonest form of which is Alzheimer's disease, mainly affects older people and, because more people than ever are living to a ripe old age, experts estimate that, by 2050, more than 115 million people will have dementia. At present, there is no cure for dementia although drugs can be used to manage some of the symptoms. Risk factors for dementia include physical inactivity, infrequent participation in mentally or socially stimulating activities, and common vascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and smoking. In addition, some studies have reported that mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is associated with an increased risk of dementia. MCI can be seen as an intermediate state between normal cognitive aging (becoming increasingly forgetful) and dementia although many people with MCI never develop dementia, and some types of MCI can be static or self-limiting. Individuals with MCI have cognitive problems that are more severe than those normally seen in people of a similar age but they have no other symptoms of dementia and are able to look after themselves. The best studied form of MCI—amnestic MCI (aMCI)—is characterized by memory problems such as misplacing things and forgetting appointments.
Why Was This Study Done?
Much of the expected increase in dementia will occur in low and middle income countries (LAMICs) because these countries have rapidly aging populations. Given that aMCI is frequently used to define groups of people who may be at risk of developing dementia, it would be useful to know what proportion of community-dwelling older adults in LAMICs have aMCI (the prevalence of aMCI). Such information might help governments plan their future health care and social support needs. In this cross-sectional, population-based study, the researchers estimate the prevalence of aMCI in eight LAMICs using data collected by the 10/66 Dementia Research Group. They also investigate the association of aMCI with sociodemographic factors (for example, age, gender, and education), disability, and neuropsychiatric symptoms such as anxiety, apathy, irritability, and depression. A cross-sectional study collects data on a population at a single time point; the 10/66 Dementia Research Group is building an evidence base to inform the development and implementation of policies for improving the health and social welfare of older people in LAMICs, particularly people with dementia.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In cross-sectional surveys carried out in six Latin American LAMICS, China, and India, more than 15,000 elderly individuals without dementia completed standardized assessments of their mental and physical health and their cognitive function. Interviews with relatives and carers provided further details about the participant's cognitive decline and about neuropsychiatric symptoms. The researchers developed an algorithm (set of formulae) that used the data collected in these surveys to diagnose aMCI in the study participants. Finally, they used statistical methods to analyze the prevalence, distribution, and impact of aMCI in the eight LAMICs. The researchers report that aMCI was associated with disability, anxiety, apathy, and irritability but not with depression and that the prevalence of aMCI ranged from 0.8% in China to 4.3% in India. Other analyses show that, considered across all eight countries, aMCI was modestly associated with being male (men had a slightly higher prevalence of aMCI than women) and with having fewer assets but was not associated with age or education.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that aMCI, as diagnosed using the algorithm developed by the researchers, is consistently associated with higher disability and with neuropsychiatric symptoms in the LAMICs studied but not with most sociodemographic factors. Because prevalidated and standardized measurements were applied consistently in all the countries and a common algorithm was used to define aMCI, these findings also suggest that the prevalence of aMCI varies markedly among LAMIC populations and is similar to or slightly lower than the prevalence most often reported for European and North American populations. Although longitudinal studies are now needed to investigate the extent to which aMCI can be used as risk marker for further cognitive decline and dementia in these settings, the large absolute numbers of older people with aMCI in LAMICs revealed here potentially has important implications for health care and social service planning in these rapidly aging and populous regions of the world.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Alzheimer's Disease International is the international federation of Alzheimer associations around the world; it provides links to individual associations, information about dementia, and links to three World Alzheimer Reports; information about the 10/66 Dementia Research Group is also available on this web site
The Alzheimer's Society provides information for patients and carers about dementia, including information on MCI and personal stories about living with dementia
The Alzheimer's Association also provides information for patients and carers about dementia and about MCI, and personal stories about dementia
A BBC radio program that includes an interview with a man with MCI is available
MedlinePlus provides links to further resources about MCI and dementia (in English and Spanish)
PMCID: PMC3274506  PMID: 22346736
5.  Dementia before Death in Ageing Societies— The Promise of Prevention and the Reality 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(10):e397.
Dementia and severe cognitive impairment are very closely linked to ageing. The longer we live the more likely we are to suffer from these conditions. Given population increases in longevity it is important to understand not only risk and protective factors for dementia and severe cognitive impairment at given ages but also whether protection affects cumulative risk. This can be explored by examining the effect on cumulative risk by time of death of factors found consistently to reduce risk at particular ages, such as education and social status.
Methods and Findings
In this analysis we report the prevalence of dementia and severe cognitive impairment in the year before death in a large population sample. In the Medical Research Council Cognitive Function and Ageing Study (a 10-y population-based cohort study of individuals 65 and over in England and Wales), these prevalences have been estimated by age, sex, social class, and education. Differences have been explored using logistic regression. The overall prevalence of dementia at death was 30%. There was a strong increasing trend for dementia with age from 6% for those aged 65–69 y at time of death to 58% for those aged 95 y and above at time of death. Higher prevalences were seen for severe cognitive impairment, with similar patterns. People with higher education and social class had significantly reduced dementia and severe cognitive impairment before death, but the absolute difference was small (under 10%).
Reducing risk for dementia at a given age will lead to further extension of life, thus cumulative risk (even in populations at lower risk for given ages) remains high. Ageing of populations is likely to result in an increase in the number of people dying with dementia and severe cognitive impairment even in the presence of preventative programmes. Policy development and research for dementia must address the needs of individuals who will continue to experience these conditions before death.
The overall prevalence of dementia at death in this large study was 30%. Ageing of populations is likely to result in an increase in the number of people dying with dementia even in the presence of preventative programmes.
Editors' Summary
Severe cognitive impairment and its advanced form, dementia, are among the most difficult problems associated with aging in industrialized countries. Age-associated decline in mental functioning is also expected to become more common in developing countries as improvement of conditions that affect health leads to longer life expectancies. Although the risk of cognitive impairment is known to increase with age, the number of people who suffer from loss of mental abilities in the last years of their lives has not been well studied, as such persons are usually reported to have died from other causes. Further, because the very elderly are seldom included in prevention studies, it is not known whether factors found to reduce the risk of developing dementia by a given age will provide protection until the end of life.
Why Was This Study Done?
This study was designed to follow a representative population of aged people over several years to estimate the risk of developing cognitive impairment or dementia near the end of life and to determine whether factors such as education and social class, which may be protective earlier in life, can ultimately prevent decline in mental functioning.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Using standardized assessments of cognitive status, the researchers interviewed people age 65 and over at six sites representing rural and urban areas in the United Kingdom. Interviews were conducted at regular intervals over ten years. Of approximately 12,000 study participants who had died by the time of this report, just over 2,500 had an assessment for dementia within one year before dying. Of this group, those who died between ages 65 and 69 had a 6% chance of dying with dementia, and those who died above age 95 had a 58% chance of dying with dementia. When moderate and severe cognitive impairment were considered together, the rate in people above age 95 reached almost 80%. Women were more likely to develop dementia than men, even after taking into account the fact that women tend to live longer than men. A higher level of education was associated with only a slightly lower risk of dementia before death.
What Do These Findings Mean?
According to these results, as the number of aged persons increases (with improved health care, preventive medicine, and healthier lifestyles), the chances of developing dementia in the last years of life will continue to increase. Factors believed to protect against dementia at earlier times may be of little effect at the end of life. Planning for aging societies must therefore include not only research into treatments and preventive efforts to reduce the impact of dementia at the end of life, but also realistic allocation of resources to support individuals and their caregivers who must deal with the difficulties of cognitive decline.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Web site of the Medical Research Council Cognitive Function and Ageing Study
Web site of the Alzheimer's Association
Wikipedia entry on dementia (note: Wikipedia is a free Internet encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
PMCID: PMC1626550  PMID: 17076551
6.  Genetic Predisposition to Increased Blood Cholesterol and Triglyceride Lipid Levels and Risk of Alzheimer Disease: A Mendelian Randomization Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(9):e1001713.
In this study, Proitsi and colleagues use a Mendelian randomization approach to dissect the causal nature of the association between circulating lipid levels and late onset Alzheimer's Disease (LOAD) and find that genetic predisposition to increased plasma cholesterol and triglyceride lipid levels is not associated with elevated LOAD risk.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Although altered lipid metabolism has been extensively implicated in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer disease (AD) through cell biological, epidemiological, and genetic studies, the molecular mechanisms linking cholesterol and AD pathology are still not well understood and contradictory results have been reported. We have used a Mendelian randomization approach to dissect the causal nature of the association between circulating lipid levels and late onset AD (LOAD) and test the hypothesis that genetically raised lipid levels increase the risk of LOAD.
Methods and Findings
We included 3,914 patients with LOAD, 1,675 older individuals without LOAD, and 4,989 individuals from the general population from six genome wide studies drawn from a white population (total n = 10,578). We constructed weighted genotype risk scores (GRSs) for four blood lipid phenotypes (high-density lipoprotein cholesterol [HDL-c], low-density lipoprotein cholesterol [LDL-c], triglycerides, and total cholesterol) using well-established SNPs in 157 loci for blood lipids reported by Willer and colleagues (2013). Both full GRSs using all SNPs associated with each trait at p<5×10−8 and trait specific scores using SNPs associated exclusively with each trait at p<5×10−8 were developed. We used logistic regression to investigate whether the GRSs were associated with LOAD in each study and results were combined together by meta-analysis. We found no association between any of the full GRSs and LOAD (meta-analysis results: odds ratio [OR] = 1.005, 95% CI 0.82–1.24, p = 0.962 per 1 unit increase in HDL-c; OR = 0.901, 95% CI 0.65–1.25, p = 0.530 per 1 unit increase in LDL-c; OR = 1.104, 95% CI 0.89–1.37, p = 0.362 per 1 unit increase in triglycerides; and OR = 0.954, 95% CI 0.76–1.21, p = 0.688 per 1 unit increase in total cholesterol). Results for the trait specific scores were similar; however, the trait specific scores explained much smaller phenotypic variance.
Genetic predisposition to increased blood cholesterol and triglyceride lipid levels is not associated with elevated LOAD risk. The observed epidemiological associations between abnormal lipid levels and LOAD risk could therefore be attributed to the result of biological pleiotropy or could be secondary to LOAD. Limitations of this study include the small proportion of lipid variance explained by the GRS, biases in case-control ascertainment, and the limitations implicit to Mendelian randomization studies. Future studies should focus on larger LOAD datasets with longitudinal sampled peripheral lipid measures and other markers of lipid metabolism, which have been shown to be altered in LOAD.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Currently, about 44 million people worldwide have dementia, a group of brain disorders characterized by an irreversible decline in memory, communication, and other “cognitive” functions. Dementia mainly affects older people and, because people are living longer, experts estimate that more than 135 million people will have dementia by 2050. The commonest form of dementia is Alzheimer disease. In this type of dementia, protein clumps called plaques and neurofibrillary tangles form in the brain and cause its degeneration. The earliest sign of Alzheimer disease is usually increasing forgetfulness. As the disease progresses, affected individuals gradually lose their ability to deal with normal daily activities such as dressing. They may become anxious or aggressive or begin to wander. They may also eventually lose control of their bladder and of other physical functions. At present, there is no cure for Alzheimer disease although some of its symptoms can be managed with drugs. Most people with the disease are initially cared for at home by relatives and other unpaid carers, but many patients end their days in a care home or specialist nursing home.
Why Was This Study Done?
Several lines of evidence suggest that lipid metabolism (how the body handles cholesterol and other fats) is altered in patients whose Alzheimer disease develops after the age of 60 years (late onset Alzheimer disease, LOAD). In particular, epidemiological studies (observational investigations that examine the patterns and causes of disease in populations) have found an association between high amounts of cholesterol in the blood in midlife and the risk of LOAD. However, observational studies cannot prove that abnormal lipid metabolism (dyslipidemia) causes LOAD. People with dyslipidemia may share other characteristics that cause both dyslipidemia and LOAD (confounding) or LOAD might actually cause dyslipidemia (reverse causation). Here, the researchers use “Mendelian randomization” to examine whether lifetime changes in lipid metabolism caused by genes have a causal impact on LOAD risk. In Mendelian randomization, causality is inferred from associations between genetic variants that mimic the effect of a modifiable risk factor and the outcome of interest. Because gene variants are inherited randomly, they are not prone to confounding and are free from reverse causation. So, if dyslipidemia causes LOAD, genetic variants that affect lipid metabolism should be associated with an altered risk of LOAD.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers investigated whether genetic predisposition to raised lipid levels increased the risk of LOAD in 10,578 participants (3,914 patients with LOAD, 1,675 elderly people without LOAD, and 4,989 population controls) using data collected in six genome wide studies looking for gene variants associated with Alzheimer disease. The researchers constructed a genotype risk score (GRS) for each participant using genetic risk markers for four types of blood lipids on the basis of the presence of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs, a type of gene variant) in their DNA. When the researchers used statistical methods to investigate the association between the GRS and LOAD among all the study participants, they found no association between the GRS and LOAD.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that the genetic predisposition to raised blood levels of four types of lipid is not causally associated with LOAD risk. The accuracy of this finding may be affected by several limitations of this study, including the small proportion of lipid variance explained by the GRS and the validity of several assumptions that underlie all Mendelian randomization studies. Moreover, because all the participants in this study were white, these findings may not apply to people of other ethnic backgrounds. Given their findings, the researchers suggest that the observed epidemiological associations between abnormal lipid levels in the blood and variation in lipid levels for reasons other than genetics, or to LOAD risk could be secondary to variation in lipid levels for reasons other than genetics, or to LOAD, a possibility that can be investigated by studying blood lipid levels and other markers of lipid metabolism over time in large groups of patients with LOAD. Importantly, however, these findings provide new information about the role of lipids in LOAD development that may eventually lead to new therapeutic and public-health interventions for Alzheimer disease.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information (including personal stories) about Alzheimer's disease
The UK not-for-profit organization Alzheimer's Society provides information for patients and carers about dementia, including personal experiences of living with Alzheimer's disease
The US not-for-profit organization Alzheimer's Association also provides information for patients and carers about dementia and personal stories about dementia
Alzheimer's Disease International is the international federation of Alzheimer disease associations around the world; it provides links to individual associations, information about dementia, and links to World Alzheimer Reports
MedlinePlus provides links to additional resources about Alzheimer's disease (in English and Spanish)
Wikipedia has a page on Mendelian randomization (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
PMCID: PMC4165594  PMID: 25226301
7.  Cognitive Reserve Moderates the Association Between Hippocampal Volume and Episodic Memory in Middle Age 
Neuropsychologia  2013;51(6):1124-1131.
Cognitive reserve is hypothesized to help people withstand greater brain pathology without manifesting clinical symptoms, and may be regarded as a preventive factor of dementia. It is unclear whether the effect of cognitive reserve is evident only among the older adults or after conversion to dementia, or if it can also be seen earlier in life before the prominent effects of cognitive aging become apparent. While finding a main effect of cognitive reserve on cognitive outcome may be consistent with the reserve hypothesis, in our view, it is unnecessary to invoke the idea of reserve if only a main effect is present. Rather, it is the interaction between a measure of reserve and a brain measure on cognitive outcome that is key for confirming that the effects of brain pathology affect people differently according to their cognitive reserve. We studied whether general cognitive ability at an average age of 20 years, as a direct measure of cognitive reserve, moderates the association between hippocampal volume and episodic memory performance in 494 middle-aged men ages 51 to 60. Whereas there was no statistically significant direct relationship between hippocampal volume and episodic memory performance in middle age, we found a statistically significant interaction such that there was a positive association between hippocampal volume and episodic memory only among people with lower general cognitive ability at age 20, i.e., lower levels of cognitive reserve. Our results provide support for the hypothesis that cognitive reserve moderates the relationship between brain structure and cognition in middle age, well before the onset of dementia.
PMCID: PMC3660613  PMID: 23499725
cognitive reserve; general cognitive ability; episodic memory; hippocampus; verbal learning
8.  The dementia and disability project in Thai elderly: rational, design, methodology and early results 
BMC Neurology  2013;13:3.
A strong inverse relationship of functional limitation and socioeconomic status has been established in western ageing society. Functional limitation can be related to chronic diseases, disuse, cognitive decline, and ageing. Among chronic diseases in the Thai population, cerebrovascular diseases, diabetes, and arthritis are common. These factors are known to contribute to disability and poor quality of life in the elder population. Neuropsychiatric problems, cognitive decline, dementia, and cultural issues in elderly people also can alter the quality of life of the elderly.
The Dementia and Disability Project in Thai Elderly (DDP) aims at comprehensively assessing community dwelling Thai elderly to understand the relationship between disability and motor function, neuropsychiatric symptoms, cognitive function, and chronic diseases. The DDP is the first study to look at the prevalence and etiology of dementia and of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) in Thai elders and to explore the relationship of cognition, disability, small vessel diseases and cortical degeneration with neuroimaging in Thai elderly people. 1998 Thai elders were screened in 2004–2006 and diagnosed as having MCI or dementia. 223 elders with MCI or dementia and cognitively normal elderly had brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or at baseline. 319 elders from the 3 groups had blood tests to investigate the risks and possible etiologies of dementia including genotyping at baseline.
The mean age of elders in this study is 69.51(SD=6.71, min=60, max=95) years. 689(34.9%) are men and 1284(65.1%) are women. Mean body weight was 58.36(SD=11.20) kgs. The regression model reveals that performance on gait and balance and serum triglyceride predicts activity of daily living performance (adjusted r2 = 0.280, f=2.644, p=0.003). The majority of abnormal gait in Thai elders was lower level gait disturbance. Only 1.5% (29/1952) had highest level gait disorders. 39.5% of 1964 subjects were free of chronic diseases. Treatment gap (indicating those who have untreated or inadequate treatment) of diabetes mellitus and hypertension in Thai elders in this study was 37% and 55.5% respectively. 62.6% of Thai elders have ApoE3E3 allele. Prevalence of positive ApoE4 gene in this study is 22.85%. 38.6% of Thai elders who had MRI brain study have moderate to severe white matter lesions.
The large and comprehensive set of measurements in DDP allows a wide-ranging explanation of the functional and clinical features to be investigated in relation to white matter lesions or cortical atrophy of the brain in Thai elderly population. An almost 2 year follow up was made available to those with MCI and dementia and some of the cognitively normal elderly. The longitudinal design will provide great understanding of the possible contributors to disability in the elderly and to the progression of cognitive decline in Thai elders.
PMCID: PMC3552988  PMID: 23305293
Mild cognitive impairment; Dementia; Alzheimer disease; Disability; White matter lesions; Thailand
9.  Cortical Neuritic Plaques and Hippocampal Neurofibrillary Tangles are Related to Dementia Severity in Elderly Schizophrenia Patients 
Schizophrenia research  2010;116(1):90-96.
Cognitive decline has been described in elderly patients with schizophrenia, but the underlying pathology remains unknown. Some studies report increases in plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, but there is no evidence for an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in elderly schizophrenics. Models of a decreased cerebral reserve suggest that increases in AD-related neuropathology below the threshold for a neuropathological diagnosis could be related to dementia severity in elderly schizophrenia patients. We tested this hypothesis in 110 autopsy specimens of schizophrenia patients , without a neuropatholgical diagnosis of AD or other neurdegenerative disorders. Furthermore, we assessed the effects of apolipoprotein E (ApoE) status, a known genetic risk factor for AD. Measures of density of neuritic plaques were obtained in five cortical regions, and the degree of hippocampal neurofibrillary tangles was rated. Dementia severity was measured prior to postmortem using the Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR) scale. In multivariate analyses of variance were conducted with the factors dementia severity, by ApoE4 carrier status. Hippocampal neurofibrillary tangles correlated with increased dementia severity (p < .05). Neuritic plaque density increased with greater dementia severity (p < .005), and ApoE4 carrier status (p < .005), and these differences were magnified by ApoE4 carrier status (p < .01). Even below the threshold for a neuropathological diagnosis of AD, neuritic plaques and hippocampal neurofibrillary tangles are associated with dementia severity in schizophrenia patients, even more so in the presence of genetic risk factors, suggesting that a decreased cerebral reserve in elderly schizophrenics may increase susceptibilty for dementia.
PMCID: PMC2795077  PMID: 19896333
Schizophrenia; Alzheimer’s Disease; Neuropathology
10.  Cognitive activities delay onset of memory decline in persons who develop dementia 
Neurology  2009;73(5):356-361.
Persons destined to develop dementia experience an accelerated rate of decline in cognitive ability, particularly in memory. Early life education and participation in cognitively stimulating leisure activities later in life are 2 factors thought to reflect cognitive reserve, which may delay the onset of the memory decline in the preclinical stages of dementia.
We followed 488 initially cognitively intact community residing individuals with epidemiologic, clinical, and cognitive assessments every 12 to 18 months in the Bronx Aging Study. We assessed the influence of self-reported participation in cognitively stimulating leisure activities on the onset of accelerated memory decline as measured by the Buschke Selective Reminding Test in 101 individuals who developed incident dementia using a change point model.
Each additional self-reported day of cognitive activity at baseline delayed the onset of accelerated memory decline by 0.18 years. Higher baseline levels of cognitive activity were associated with more rapid memory decline after that onset. Inclusion of education did not significantly add to the fit of the model beyond the effect of cognitive activities.
Our findings show that late life cognitive activities influence cognitive reserve independently of education. The effect of early life education on cognitive reserve may be mediated by cognitive activity later in life. Alternatively, early life education may be a determinant of cognitive reserve, and individuals with more education may choose to participate in cognitive activities without influencing reserve. Future studies should examine the efficacy of increasing participation in cognitive activities to prevent or delay dementia.
= Alzheimer disease;
= baseline;
= Cognitive Activity Scale;
= confidence interval;
= Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders;
= diagnosis;
= National Institute on Aging;
= Selective Reminding Test;
= Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale Verbal IQ.
PMCID: PMC2725932  PMID: 19652139
11.  Psychosocial Factors That Shape Patient and Carer Experiences of Dementia Diagnosis and Treatment: A Systematic Review of Qualitative Studies 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(10):e1001331.
A systematic review of qualitative studies conducted by Frances Bunn and colleagues identifies and describes the experiences of patients and caregivers on receiving and adapting to a diagnosis of dementia.
Early diagnosis and intervention for people with dementia is increasingly considered a priority, but practitioners are concerned with the effects of earlier diagnosis and interventions on patients and caregivers. This systematic review evaluates the qualitative evidence about how people accommodate and adapt to the diagnosis of dementia and its immediate consequences, to guide practice.
Methods and Findings
We systematically reviewed qualitative studies exploring experiences of community-dwelling individuals with dementia, and their carers, around diagnosis and the transition to becoming a person with dementia. We searched PubMed, PsychINFO, Embase, CINAHL, and the British Nursing Index (all searched in May 2010 with no date restrictions; PubMed search updated in February 2012), checked reference lists, and undertook citation searches in PubMed and Google Scholar (ongoing to September 2011). We used thematic synthesis to identify key themes, commonalities, barriers to earlier diagnosis, and support identified as helpful. We identified 126 papers reporting 102 studies including a total of 3,095 participants. Three overarching themes emerged from our analysis: (1) pathways through diagnosis, including its impact on identity, roles, and relationships; (2) resolving conflicts to accommodate a diagnosis, including the acceptability of support, focusing on the present or the future, and the use or avoidance of knowledge; and (3) strategies and support to minimise the impact of dementia. Consistent barriers to diagnosis include stigma, normalisation of symptoms, and lack of knowledge. Studies report a lack of specialist support particularly post-diagnosis.
There is an extensive body of qualitative literature on the experiences of community-dwelling individuals with dementia on receiving and adapting to a diagnosis of dementia. We present a thematic analysis that could be useful to professionals working with people with dementia. We suggest that research emphasis should shift towards the development and evaluation of interventions, particularly those providing support after diagnosis.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary.
Editors' Summary
Dementia is a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer disease is the most common type of dementia. People with dementia usually have problems with two or more cognitive functions—thinking, language, memory, understanding, and judgment. Dementia is rare before the age of 65, but about a quarter of people over 85 have dementia. Because more people live longer these days, the number of patients with dementia is increasing. It is estimated that today between 40 and 50 million people live with dementia worldwide. By 2050, this number is expected to triple.
One way to study what dementia means to patients and their carers (most often spouses or other family members) is through qualitative research. Qualitative research aims to develop an in-depth understanding of individuals' experiences and behavior, as well as the reasons for their feelings and actions. In qualitative studies, researchers interview patients, their families, and doctors. When the studies are published, they usually contain direct quotations from interviews as well as summaries by the scientists who designed the interviews and analyzed the responses.
Why Was This Study Done?
This study was done to better understand the experiences and attitudes of patients and their carers surrounding dementia diagnosis. It focused on patients who lived and were cared for within the community (as opposed to people living in senior care facilities or other institutions). Most cases of dementia are progressive, meaning symptoms get worse over time. Diagnosis often happens at an advanced stage of the disease, and some patients never receive a formal diagnosis. This could have many possible reasons, including unawareness or denial of symptoms by patients and people close to them. The study was also trying to understand barriers to early diagnosis and what type of support is useful for newly diagnosed patients and carers.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers conducted a systematic search for published qualitative research studies that reported on the experience, beliefs, feelings, and attitudes surrounding dementia diagnosis. They identified and reviewed 102 such studies. Among the quotations and summaries of the individual studies, they looked for prominent and recurring themes. They also compared and contrasted the respective experiences of patients and carers.
Overall, they found that the complexity and variety of responses to a diagnosis of dementia means that making the diagnosis and conveying it to patients and carers is challenging. Negative connotations associated with dementia, inconsistent symptoms, and not knowing enough about the signs and symptoms were commonly reported barriers to early dementia diagnosis. It was often the carer who initiated the search for help from a doctor, and among patients, willingness and readiness to receive a diagnosis varied. Being told one had dementia had a big impact on a patient's identity and often caused feelings of loss, anger, fear, and frustration. Spouses had to adjust to increasingly unequal relationships and the transition to a role as carer. The strain associated with this often caused health problems in the carers as well. On the other hand, studies examining the experience of couples often reported that they found ways to continue working together as a team.
Adjusting to a dementia diagnosis is a complex process. Initially, most patients and carers experienced conflicts, for example, between autonomy and safety, between recognizing the need for help but reluctance to accept it, or between living in the present and dealing with anxiety about and preparing for the future. As these were resolved and as the disease progressed, the attitudes of patients and carers towards dementia often became more balanced and accepting. Many patients and their families adopted strategies to cope with the impact of dementia on their lives in order to manage the disease and maintain some sort of normal life. These included practical strategies involving reminders, social strategies such as relying on family support, and emotional strategies such as using humor. At some point many patients and carers reported that they were able to adopt positive mindsets and incorporate dementia in their lives.
The studies also pointed to an urgent need for support from outside the family, both right after diagnosis and subsequently. General practitioners and family physicians have important roles in helping patients and carers to get access to information, social and psychological support, and community care. The need for information was reported to be ongoing and varied, and meeting it required a variety of sources and formats. Key needs for patients and carers mentioned in the studies include information on financial aids and entitlements early on, and continued access to supportive professionals and specialists.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Qualitative studies to date on how patients and carers respond to a diagnosis of dementia provide a fairly detailed picture of their experiences. The summary provided here should help professionals to understand better the challenges patients and carers face around the time of diagnosis as well as their immediate and evolving needs. The results also suggest that future research should focus on the development and evaluation of ways to meet those needs.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
Wikipedia has pages on dementia and qualitative research (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
Alzheimer Europe, an umbrella organization of 34 Alzheimer associations from 30 countries across Europe, has a page on the different approaches to research
The UK Department of Health has pages on dementia, including guidelines for carers of people with dementia
MedlinePlus also has information about dementia
PMCID: PMC3484131  PMID: 23118618
12.  Cognitive reserve, presynaptic proteins and dementia in the elderly 
Translational Psychiatry  2012;2(5):e114-.
Differences in cognitive reserve may contribute to the wide range of likelihood of dementia in people with similar amounts of age-related neuropathology. The amounts and interactions of presynaptic proteins could be molecular components of cognitive reserve, contributing resistance to the expression of pathology as cognitive impairment. We carried out a prospective study with yearly assessments of N=253 participants without dementia at study entry. Six distinct presynaptic proteins, and the protein–protein interaction between synaptosomal-associated protein 25 (SNAP-25) and syntaxin, were measured in post-mortem brains. We assessed the contributions of Alzheimer's disease (AD) pathology, cerebral infarcts and presynaptic proteins to odds of dementia, level of cognitive function and cortical atrophy. Clinical dementia was present in N=97 (38.3%), a pathologic diagnosis of AD in N=142 (56.1%) and cerebral infarcts in N=77 (30.4%). After accounting for AD pathology and infarcts, greater amounts of vesicle-associated membrane protein, complexins I and II and the SNAP-25/syntaxin interaction were associated with lower odds of dementia (odds ratio=0.36–0.68, P<0.001 to P=0.03) and better cognitive function (P<0.001 to P=0.03). Greater cortical atrophy, a putative dementia biomarker, was not associated with AD pathology, but was associated with lower complexin-II (P=0.01) and lower SNAP-25/syntaxin interaction (P<0.001). In conclusion, greater amounts of specific presynaptic proteins and distinct protein–protein interactions may be structural or functional components of cognitive reserve that reduce the risk of dementia with aging.
PMCID: PMC3365257  PMID: 22832958
Alzheimer's disease; cognitive reserve; complexin; dementia; SNARE protein
13.  Cognitive and Social Lifestyle: Links with Neuropathology and Cognition in Late Life 
Acta neuropathologica  2013;127(1):137-150.
Many studies report an association of cognitive and social experiential factors and related traits with dementia risk. Further, many clinical-pathologic studies find a poor correspondence between levels of neuropathology and the presence of dementia and level of cognitive impairment. The poor correspondence suggests that other factors contribute to the maintenance or loss of cognitive function, with factors associated with the maintenance of function referred to as neural or cognitive reserve. This has led investigators to examine the associations of cognitive and social experiential factors with neuropathology as a first step in disentangling the complex associations between these experiential risk factors, neuropathology, and cognitive impairment. Despite the consistent associations of a range of cognitive and social lifestyle factors with cognitive decline and dementia risk, the extant clinical pathologic data finds only a single factor from one cohort, linguistic ability, related to AD pathology. Other factors, including education, harm avoidance, and emotional neglect, are associated with cerebrovascular disease. Overall, the associations are weak. Some factors, such as education, social networks, and purpose in life modify the relation of neuropathology to cognition. Finally, some factors such as cognitive activity appear to bypass known pathologies altogether suggesting a more direct association with biologic indices that promote person-specific differences in reserve and resilience. Future work will first need to replicate findings across more studies to ensure the veracity of the existing data. Second, effort is need to identify the molecular substrates of neural reserve as potential mediators of the association of lifestyle factors with cognition.
PMCID: PMC4054865  PMID: 24356982
Aging; Dementia; Risk Factors; Neuropathology; Neural Reserve; Epidemiology
14.  Exercise-Induced Cognitive Plasticity, Implications for Mild Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer’s Disease 
Lifestyle factors such as intellectual stimulation, cognitive and social engagement, nutrition, and various types of exercise appear to reduce the risk for common age-associated disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and vascular dementia. In fact, many studies have suggested that promoting physical activity can have a protective effect against cognitive deterioration later in life. Slowing or a deterioration of walking speed is associated with a poor performance in tests assessing psychomotor speed and verbal fluency in elderly individuals. Fitness training influences a wide range of cognitive processes, and the largest positive impact observed is for executive (a.k.a. frontal lobe) functions. Studies show that exercise improves additional cognitive functions such as tasks mediated by the hippocampus, and result in major changes in plasticity in the hippocampus. Interestingly, this exercise-induced plasticity is also pronounced in APOE ε4 carriers who express a risk factor for late-onset AD that may modulate the effect of treatments. Based on AD staging by Braak and Braak (1991) and Braak et al. (1993) we propose that the effects of exercise occur in two temporo-spatial continua of events. The “inward” continuum from isocortex (neocortex) to entorhinal cortex/hippocampus for amyloidosis and a reciprocal “outward” continuum for neurofibrillary alterations. The exercise-induced hypertrophy of the hippocampus at the core of these continua is evaluated in terms of potential for prevention to stave off neuronal degeneration. Exercise-induced production of growth factors such as the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) has been shown to enhance neurogenesis and to play a key role in positive cognitive effects. Insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) may mediate the exercise-induced response to exercise on BDNF, neurogenesis, and cognitive performance. It is also postulated to regulate brain amyloid β (Aβ) levels by increased clearance via the choroid plexus. Growth factors, specifically fibroblast growth factor and IGF-1 receptors and/or their downstream signaling pathways may interact with the Klotho gene which functions as an aging suppressor gene. Neurons may not be the only cells affected by exercise. Glia (astrocytes and microglia), neurovascular units and the Fourth Element may also be affected in a differential fashion by the AD process. Analyses of these factors, as suggested by the multi-dimensional matrix approach, are needed to improve our understanding of this complex multi-factorial process, which is increasingly relevant to conquering the escalating and intersecting world-wide epidemics of dementia, diabetes, and sarcopenia that threaten the global healthcare system. Physical activity and interventions aimed at enhancing and/or mimicking the effects of exercise are likely to play a significant role in mitigating these epidemics, together with the embryonic efforts to develop cognitive rehabilitation for neurodegenerative disorders.
PMCID: PMC3092070  PMID: 21602910
hippocampus; entorhinal cortex; insulin-like growth factor; reduction of systemic inflammation; p38 effector of Aβ-induced neurodegeneration; virtual reality environment; exponentially decreasing risk of cell death; loss of cognitive performance
15.  Dementia 
Clinical Evidence  2010;2010:1001.
Dementia is characterised by chronic, global, non-reversible deterioration in memory, executive function, and personality. Speech and motor function may also be impaired.
Methods and outcomes
We conducted a systematic review and aimed to answer the following clinical question: What are the effects of treatments on cognitive symptoms of dementia (Alzheimer's, Lewy body, or vascular)? What are the effects of treatments on behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia (Alzheimer's, Lewy body, or vascular)? We searched: Medline, Embase, The Cochrane Library, and other important databases up to April 2008 (Clinical Evidence reviews are updated periodically; please check our website for the most up-to-date version of this review). We included harms alerts from relevant organisations such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
We found 33 systematic reviews, RCTs, or observational studies that met our inclusion criteria. We performed a GRADE evaluation of the quality of evidence for interventions.
In this systematic review, we present information relating to the effectiveness and safety of the following interventions: acetylcholinesterase inhibitors (donepezil, galantamine, rivastigmine), antidepressants (clomipramine, fluoxetine, imipramine, sertraline), antipsychotics (haloperidol, olanzapine, quetiapine, risperidone), aromatherapy, benzodiazepines (diazepam, lorazepam), cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), cognitive stimulation, exercise, ginkgo biloba, memantine, mood stabilisers (carbamazepine, sodium valproate/valproic acid), music therapy, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), omega 3 (fish oil), reminiscence therapy, and statins.
Key Points
Dementia is characterised by chronic, global, non-reversible deterioration in memory, executive function, and personality. Speech and motor function may also be impaired.
Median life expectancy for people with Alzheimer's and Lewy body dementia is about 6 years after diagnosis, although many people may live far longer.
RCTs of dementia are often not representative of all people with dementia; most are 6 months or less, not in primary care, and most RCTs are in people with Alzheimer's disease. There are fewer RCTs in people with vascular dementia, and fewer still in people with Lewy body dementia.
Cognitive symptoms of dementia can be improved by acetylcholinesterase inhibitors (donepezil, galantamine, and rivastigmine). Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors seem to improve cognitive function, global state, and activities of daily living scores compared with placebo at 26 weeks in people with Alzheimer's disease.However, they may be associated with an increase in adverse effects, particularly GI symptoms (anorexia, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhoea).
We don't know whether cognitive stimulation, music therapy, reminiscence therapy, omega 3 fish oil, statins, or NSAIDs are effective at improving cognitive outcomes in people with cognitive symptoms of dementia, as we found insufficient evidence.
In people with cognitive symptoms, memantine may improve global state and activities of daily living scores in people with moderate to severe Alzheimer's disease over 24 to 28 weeks, but we don't know about these in mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease. Although memantine is associated with a statistically significant increase in cognition scores in some population groups, the clinical importance of these results is unclear.
Ginkgo biloba is unlikely to improve cognitive function in people with Alzheimer's disease or vascular dementia. However, evidence is of poor quality so this conclusion should be interpreted with caution.
Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors may marginally improve neuropsychiatric symptoms compared with placebo in people with behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia, but they are also associated with adverse effects.
Antidepressants (clomipramine, fluoxetine, imipramine, sertraline) may improve depressive symptoms compared with placebo in people with Alzheimer's disease associated with depression. However, RCTs were small and short term, and adverse effects were sparsely reported.
Memantine may be associated with a small improvement in neuropsychiatric symptoms compared with placebo in people with behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia, but it is also associated with adverse effects.
We don't know whether diazepam, lorazepam, aromatherapy, CBT, exercise, carbamazepine, or sodium valproate/valproic acid are effective at improving neuropsychiatric symptoms in people with behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia, as we found insufficient evidence.
Some antipsychotics may improve neuropsychiatric symptoms or aggression in people with behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia, but antipsychotics are also associated with an increase risk of severe adverse events such as stroke, TIA, or death.
CAUTION: Regulatory bodies have issued alerts that both conventional and atypical antipsychotics are associated with an increased risk of death in elderly people treated for dementia-related psychosis.
PMCID: PMC2907611  PMID: 21726471
16.  Caregiver- and Patient-Directed Interventions for Dementia 
Executive Summary
In early August 2007, the Medical Advisory Secretariat began work on the Aging in the Community project, an evidence-based review of the literature surrounding healthy aging in the community. The Health System Strategy Division at the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care subsequently asked the secretariat to provide an evidentiary platform for the ministry’s newly released Aging at Home Strategy.
After a broad literature review and consultation with experts, the secretariat identified 4 key areas that strongly predict an elderly person’s transition from independent community living to a long-term care home. Evidence-based analyses have been prepared for each of these 4 areas: falls and fall-related injuries, urinary incontinence, dementia, and social isolation. For the first area, falls and fall-related injuries, an economic model is described in a separate report.
Please visit the Medical Advisory Secretariat Web site,, to review these titles within the Aging in the Community series.
Aging in the Community: Summary of Evidence-Based Analyses
Prevention of Falls and Fall-Related Injuries in Community-Dwelling Seniors: An Evidence-Based Analysis
Behavioural Interventions for Urinary Incontinence in Community-Dwelling Seniors: An Evidence-Based Analysis
Caregiver- and Patient-Directed Interventions for Dementia: An Evidence-Based Analysis
Social Isolation in Community-Dwelling Seniors: An Evidence-Based Analysis
The Falls/Fractures Economic Model in Ontario Residents Aged 65 Years and Over (FEMOR)
This report features the evidence-based analysis on caregiver- and patient-directed interventions for dementia and is broken down into 4 sections:
Caregiver-Directed Interventions for Dementia
Patient-Directed Interventions for Dementia
Economic Analysis of Caregiver- and Patient-Directed Interventions for Dementia
Caregiver-Directed Interventions for Dementia
To identify interventions that may be effective in supporting the well-being of unpaid caregivers of seniors with dementia living in the community.
Clinical Need: Target Population and Condition
Dementia is a progressive and largely irreversible syndrome that is characterized by a loss of cognitive function severe enough to impact social or occupational functioning. The components of cognitive function affected include memory and learning, attention, concentration and orientation, problem-solving, calculation, language, and geographic orientation. Dementia was identified as one of the key predictors in a senior’s transition from independent community living to admission to a long-term care (LTC) home, in that approximately 90% of individuals diagnosed with dementia will be institutionalized before death. In addition, cognitive decline linked to dementia is one of the most commonly cited reasons for institutionalization.
Prevalence estimates of dementia in the Ontario population have largely been extrapolated from the Canadian Study of Health and Aging conducted in 1991. Based on these estimates, it is projected that there will be approximately 165,000 dementia cases in Ontario in the year 2008, and by 2010 the number of cases will increase by nearly 17% over 2005 levels. By 2020 the number of cases is expected to increase by nearly 55%, due to a rise in the number of people in the age categories with the highest prevalence (85+). With the increase in the aging population, dementia will continue to have a significant economic impact on the Canadian health care system. In 1991, the total costs associated with dementia in Canada were $3.9 billion (Cdn) with $2.18 billion coming from LTC.
Caregivers play a crucial role in the management of individuals with dementia because of the high level of dependency and morbidity associated with the condition. It has been documented that a greater demand is faced by dementia caregivers compared with caregivers of persons with other chronic diseases. The increased burden of caregiving contributes to a host of chronic health problems seen among many informal caregivers of persons with dementia. Much of this burden results from managing the behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD), which have been established as a predictor of institutionalization for elderly patients with dementia.
It is recognized that for some patients with dementia, an LTC facility can provide the most appropriate care; however, many patients move into LTC unnecessarily. For individuals with dementia to remain in the community longer, caregivers require many types of formal and informal support services to alleviate the stress of caregiving. These include both respite care and psychosocial interventions. Psychosocial interventions encompass a broad range of interventions such as psychoeducational interventions, counseling, supportive therapy, and behavioural interventions.
Assuming that 50% of persons with dementia live in the community, a conservative estimate of the number of informal caregivers in Ontario is 82,500. Accounting for the fact that 29% of people with dementia live alone, this leaves a remaining estimate of 58,575 Ontarians providing care for a person with dementia with whom they reside.
Description of Interventions
The 2 main categories of caregiver-directed interventions examined in this review are respite care and psychosocial interventions. Respite care is defined as a break or relief for the caregiver. In most cases, respite is provided in the home, through day programs, or at institutions (usually 30 days or less). Depending on a caregiver’s needs, respite services will vary in delivery and duration. Respite care is carried out by a variety of individuals, including paid staff, volunteers, family, or friends.
Psychosocial interventions encompass a broad range of interventions and have been classified in various ways in the literature. This review will examine educational, behavioural, dementia-specific, supportive, and coping interventions. The analysis focuses on behavioural interventions, that is, those designed to help the caregiver manage BPSD. As described earlier, BPSD are one of the most challenging aspects of caring for a senior with dementia, causing an increase in caregiver burden. The analysis also examines multicomponent interventions, which include at least 2 of the above-mentioned interventions.
Methods of Evidence-Based Analysis
A comprehensive search strategy was used to identify systematic reviews and randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that examined the effectiveness of interventions for caregivers of dementia patients.
Section 2.1
Are respite care services effective in supporting the well-being of unpaid caregivers of seniors with dementia in the community?
Do respite care services impact on rates of institutionalization of these seniors?
Section 2.2
Which psychosocial interventions are effective in supporting the well-being of unpaid caregivers of seniors with dementia in the community?
Which interventions reduce the risk for institutionalization of seniors with dementia?
Outcomes of Interest
any quantitative measure of caregiver psychological health, including caregiver burden, depression, quality of life, well-being, strain, mastery (taking control of one’s situation), reactivity to behaviour problems, etc.;
rate of institutionalization; and
Assessment of Quality of Evidence
The quality of the evidence was assessed as High, Moderate, Low, or Very low according to the GRADE methodology and GRADE Working Group. As per GRADE the following definitions apply:
Summary of Findings
Conclusions in Table 1 are drawn from Sections 2.1 and 2.2 of the report.
Summary of Conclusions on Caregiver-Directed Interventions
There is limited evidence from RCTs that respite care is effective in improving outcomes for those caring for seniors with dementia.
There is considerable qualitative evidence of the perceived benefits of respite care.
Respite care is known as one of the key formal support services for alleviating caregiver burden in those caring for dementia patients.
Respite care services need to be tailored to individual caregiver needs as there are vast differences among caregivers and patients with dementia (severity, type of dementia, amount of informal/formal support available, housing situation, etc.)
There is moderate- to high-quality evidence that individual behavioural interventions (≥ 6 sessions), directed towards the caregiver (or combined with the patient) are effective in improving psychological health in dementia caregivers.
There is moderate- to high-quality evidence that multicomponent interventions improve caregiver psychosocial health and may affect rates of institutionalization of dementia patients.
RCT indicates randomized controlled trial.
Patient-Directed Interventions for Dementia
The section on patient-directed interventions for dementia is broken down into 4 subsections with the following questions:
3.1 Physical Exercise for Seniors with Dementia – Secondary Prevention
What is the effectiveness of physical exercise for the improvement or maintenance of basic activities of daily living (ADLs), such as eating, bathing, toileting, and functional ability, in seniors with mild to moderate dementia?
3.2 Nonpharmacologic and Nonexercise Interventions to Improve Cognitive Functioning in Seniors With Dementia – Secondary Prevention
What is the effectiveness of nonpharmacologic interventions to improve cognitive functioning in seniors with mild to moderate dementia?
3.3 Physical Exercise for Delaying the Onset of Dementia – Primary Prevention
Can exercise decrease the risk of subsequent cognitive decline/dementia?
3.4 Cognitive Interventions for Delaying the Onset of Dementia – Primary Prevention
Does cognitive training decrease the risk of cognitive impairment, deterioration in the performance of basic ADLs or instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs),1 or incidence of dementia in seniors with good cognitive and physical functioning?
Clinical Need: Target Population and Condition
Secondary Prevention2
Physical deterioration is linked to dementia. This is thought to be due to reduced muscle mass leading to decreased activity levels and muscle atrophy, increasing the potential for unsafe mobility while performing basic ADLs such as eating, bathing, toileting, and functional ability.
Improved physical conditioning for seniors with dementia may extend their independent mobility and maintain performance of ADL.
Nonpharmacologic and Nonexercise Interventions
Cognitive impairments, including memory problems, are a defining feature of dementia. These impairments can lead to anxiety, depression, and withdrawal from activities. The impact of these cognitive problems on daily activities increases pressure on caregivers.
Cognitive interventions aim to improve these impairments in people with mild to moderate dementia.
Primary Prevention3
Various vascular risk factors have been found to contribute to the development of dementia (e.g., hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes, overweight).
Physical exercise is important in promoting overall and vascular health. However, it is unclear whether physical exercise can decrease the risk of cognitive decline/dementia.
Nonpharmacologic and Nonexercise Interventions
Having more years of education (i.e., a higher cognitive reserve) is associated with a lower prevalence of dementia in crossectional population-based studies and a lower incidence of dementia in cohorts followed longitudinally. However, it is unclear whether cognitive training can increase cognitive reserve or decrease the risk of cognitive impairment, prevent or delay deterioration in the performance of ADLs or IADLs or reduce the incidence of dementia.
Description of Interventions
Physical exercise and nonpharmacologic/nonexercise interventions (e.g., cognitive training) for the primary and secondary prevention of dementia are assessed in this review.
Evidence-Based Analysis Methods
A comprehensive search strategy was used to identify systematic reviews and RCTs that examined the effectiveness, safety and cost effectiveness of exercise and cognitive interventions for the primary and secondary prevention of dementia.
Section 3.1: What is the effectiveness of physical exercise for the improvement or maintenance of ADLs in seniors with mild to moderate dementia?
Section 3.2: What is the effectiveness of nonpharmacologic/nonexercise interventions to improve cognitive functioning in seniors with mild to moderate dementia?
Section 3.3: Can exercise decrease the risk of subsequent cognitive decline/dementia?
Section 3.4: Does cognitive training decrease the risk of cognitive impairment, prevent or delay deterioration in the performance of ADLs or IADLs, or reduce the incidence of dementia in seniors with good cognitive and physical functioning?
Assessment of Quality of Evidence
The quality of the evidence was assessed as High, Moderate, Low, or Very low according to the GRADE methodology. As per GRADE the following definitions apply:
Summary of Findings
Table 2 summarizes the conclusions from Sections 3.1 through 3.4.
Summary of Conclusions on Patient-Directed Interventions*
Previous systematic review indicated that “cognitive training” is not effective in patients with dementia.
A recent RCT suggests that CST (up to 7 weeks) is effective for improving cognitive function and quality of life in patients with dementia.
Regular leisure time physical activity in midlife is associated with a reduced risk of dementia in later life (mean follow-up 21 years).
Regular physical activity in seniors is associated with a reduced risk of cognitive decline (mean follow-up 2 years).
Regular physical activity in seniors is associated with a reduced risk of dementia (mean follow-up 6–7 years).
Evidence that cognitive training for specific functions (memory, reasoning, and speed of processing) produces improvements in these specific domains.
Limited inconclusive evidence that cognitive training can offset deterioration in the performance of self-reported IADL scores and performance assessments.
1° indicates primary; 2°, secondary; CST, cognitive stimulation therapy; IADL, instrumental activities of daily living; RCT, randomized controlled trial.
Benefit/Risk Analysis
As per the GRADE Working Group, the overall recommendations consider 4 main factors:
the trade-offs, taking into account the estimated size of the effect for the main outcome, the confidence limits around those estimates, and the relative value placed on the outcome;
the quality of the evidence;
translation of the evidence into practice in a specific setting, taking into consideration important factors that could be expected to modify the size of the expected effects such as proximity to a hospital or availability of necessary expertise; and
uncertainty about the baseline risk for the population of interest.
The GRADE Working Group also recommends that incremental costs of health care alternatives should be considered explicitly alongside the expected health benefits and harms. Recommendations rely on judgments about the value of the incremental health benefits in relation to the incremental costs. The last column in Table 3 reflects the overall trade-off between benefits and harms (adverse events) and incorporates any risk/uncertainty (cost-effectiveness).
Overall Summary Statement of the Benefit and Risk for Patient-Directed Interventions*
Economic Analysis
Budget Impact Analysis of Effective Interventions for Dementia
Caregiver-directed behavioural techniques and patient-directed exercise programs were found to be effective when assessing mild to moderate dementia outcomes in seniors living in the community. Therefore, an annual budget impact was calculated based on eligible seniors in the community with mild and moderate dementia and their respective caregivers who were willing to participate in interventional home sessions. Table 4 describes the annual budget impact for these interventions.
Annual Budget Impact (2008 Canadian Dollars)
Assumed 7% prevalence of dementia aged 65+ in Ontario.
Assumed 8 weekly sessions plus 4 monthly phone calls.
Assumed 12 weekly sessions plus biweekly sessions thereafter (total of 20).
Assumed 2 sessions per week for first 5 weeks. Assumed 90% of seniors in the community with dementia have mild to moderate disease. Assumed 4.5% of seniors 65+ are in long-term care, and the remainder are in the community. Assumed a rate of participation of 60% for both patients and caregivers and of 41% for patient-directed exercise. Assumed 100% compliance since intervention administered at the home. Cost for trained staff from Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care data source. Assumed cost of personal support worker to be equivalent to in-home support. Cost for recreation therapist from Alberta government Website.
Note: This budget impact analysis was calculated for the first year after introducing the interventions from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care perspective using prevalence data only. Prevalence estimates are for seniors in the community with mild to moderate dementia and their respective caregivers who are willing to participate in an interventional session administered at the home setting. Incidence and mortality rates were not factored in. Current expenditures in the province are unknown and therefore were not included in the analysis. Numbers may change based on population trends, rate of intervention uptake, trends in current programs in place in the province, and assumptions on costs. The number of patients was based on patients likely to access these interventions in Ontario based on assumptions stated below from the literature. An expert panel confirmed resource consumption.
PMCID: PMC3377513  PMID: 23074509
17.  Pathology and pathogenesis of vascular cognitive impairment—a critical update 
Vascular cognitive impairment (VCI) [vascular cognitive disorder (VCD), vascular dementia] describes a continuum of cognitive disorders ranging from mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to dementia, in which vascular brain injury involving regions important for memory, cognition and behavior plays an important role. Clinical diagnostic criteria show moderate sensitivity (ca 50%) and variable specificity (range 64–98%). In Western clinical series, VaD is suggested in 8–10% of cognitively impaired elderly subjects. Its prevalence in autopsy series varies from 0.03 to 58%, with means of 8 to 15% (in Japan 22–35%). Major types of sporadic VaD are multi-infarct encephalopathy, small vessel and strategic infarct type dementias, subcortical arteriosclerotic leukoencephalopathy (SAE) (Binswanger), multilacunar state, mixed cortico-subcortical type, granular cortical atrophy (rare), postischemic encephalopathy, and a mixture of cerebrovascular lesions (CVLs). They result from systemic, cardiac and local large or small vessel disease (SVD); their pathogenesis is multifactorial. Hereditary forms of VaD caused by gene mutations are rare. Cognitive decline is commonly associated with widespread small ischemic vascular lesions involving subcortical brain areas (basal ganglia and hemispheral white matter). The lesions affect neuronal networks involved in cognition, memory, and behavior (thalamo-cortical, striato-subfrontal, cortico-subcortical, limbic systems). CVLs often coexist with Alzheimer-type lesions and other pathologies; 25–80% of elderly demented show mixed pathologies. The lesion pattern of “pure” VaD differs from that in mixed dementia (AD + CVLs) suggesting different pathogenesis of both phenotypes. Minor CVLs, except for severe amyloid angiopathy, appear not essential for cognitive impairment in full-blown AD, while both mild AD-type pathology and SVD may interact synergistically in promoting dementia. However, in a large percentage of non-demented elderly individuals, both AD-related and vascular brain pathologies have been reported. Despite recent suggestions for staging and grading CVLs in specific brain areas, due to the high variability of CVLs associated with cognitive impairment, no validated neuropathological criteria are currently available for VaD and mixed dementia. Further clinico-pathological studies and harmonization of neuropathological procedures are needed to validate the diagnostic criteria for VaD and mixed dementia in order to clarify the impact of CVLs and other coexistent pathologies on cognitive impairment as a basis for further successful therapeutic options.
PMCID: PMC3622231  PMID: 23596414
vascular dementia; vascular cognitive impairment; cerebral infarcts; large and small vessel disease; subcortical vascular lesions; neuropathology; pathogenic factors
18.  Dementia prevention: current epidemiological evidence and future perspective 
Dementia, a major cause of disability and institutionalization in older people, poses a serious threat to public health and to the social and economic development of modern society. Alzheimer's disease (AD) and cerebrovascular diseases are the main causes of dementia; most dementia cases are attributable to both vascular and neurodegenerative brain damage. No curative treatment is available, but epidemiological research provides a substantial amount of evidence of modifiable risk and protective factors that can be addressed to prevent or delay onset of AD and dementia. Risk of late-life dementia is determined by exposures to multiple factors experienced over the life course, and the effect of specific risk/protective factors depends largely on age. Moreover, cumulative and combined exposure to different risk/protective factors can modify their effect on dementia/AD risk. Multidisciplinary research involving epidemiology, neuropathology, and neuroimaging has provided sufficient evidence that vascular risk factors significantly contribute to the expression and progression of cognitive decline (including dementia) but that active engagement in social, physical, and mentally stimulating activities may delay the onset of dementia. However, these findings need to be confirmed by randomized controlled trials (RCTs). A promising strategy for preventing dementia is to implement intervention programs that take into account both the life-course model and the multifactorial nature of this syndrome. In Europe, there are three ongoing multidomain interventional RCTs that focus on the optimal management of vascular risk factors and vascular diseases. The RCTs include medical and lifestyle interventions and promote social, mental, and physical activities aimed at increasing the cognitive reserve. These studies will provide new insights into prevention of cognitive impairment and dementia. Such knowledge can help researchers plan larger, international prevention trials that could provide robust evidence on dementia/AD prevention. Taking a step in this direction, researchers involved in these European RCTs recently started the European Dementia Prevention Initiative, an international collaboration aiming to improve strategies for preventing dementia.
PMCID: PMC3471409  PMID: 22339927
19.  Alzheimer disease identification using amyloid imaging and reserve variables 
Neurology  2010;75(1):42-48.
Several factors may influence the relationship between Alzheimer disease (AD) lesions and the expression of dementia, including those related to brain and cognitive reserve. Other factors may confound the association between AD pathology and dementia. We tested whether factors thought to influence the association of AD pathology and dementia help to accurately identify dementia of the Alzheimer type (DAT) when considered together with amyloid imaging.
Participants with normal cognition (n = 180) and with DAT (n = 25), aged 50 years or older, took part in clinical, neurologic, and psychometric assessments. PET with the Pittsburgh compound B (PiB) tracer was used to measure brain amyloid, yielding a mean cortical binding potential (MCBP) reflecting PiB uptake. Logistic regression was used to generate receiver operating characteristic curves, and the areas under those curves (AUC), to compare the predictive accuracy of using MCBP alone vs MCBP together with other variables selected using a stepwise selection procedure to identify participants with DAT vs normal cognition.
The AUC resulting from MCBP alone was 0.84 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.73–0.94; cross-validated AUC = 0.80, 95% CI = 0.68–0.92). The AUC for the predictive equation generated by a stepwise model including education, normalized whole brain volume, physical health rating, gender, and use of medications that may interfere with cognition was 0.94 (95% CI = 0.90–0.98; cross-validated AUC = 0.91, 95% CI = 0.85–0.96), an improvement (p = 0.025) over that yielded using MCBP alone.
Results suggest that factors reported to influence associations between AD pathology and dementia can improve the predictive accuracy of amyloid imaging for the identification of symptomatic AD.
β = amyloid-β;
= Alzheimer disease;
= area under receiver operating characteristic curve;
= binding potential;
= Clinical Dementia Rating;
= confidence interval;
= dementia of the Alzheimer type;
= distribution volume;
= mean cortical binding potential;
= normalized whole brain volume;
= odds ratio;
= Pittsburgh compound B;
= receiver operating characteristic curve;
= region of interest.
PMCID: PMC2906402  PMID: 20603484
20.  Cognitive Activities During Adulthood Are More Important than Education in Building Reserve 
Cognitive reserve is thought to reflect life experiences. Which experiences contribute to reserve and their relative importance is not understood. Subjects were 652 autopsied cases from the Rush Memory and Aging Project and the Religious Orders Study. Reserve was defined as the residual variance of the regressions of cognitive factors on brain pathology and was captured in a latent variable that was regressed on potential determinants of reserve. Neuropathology variables included Alzheimer’s disease markers, Lewy bodies, infarcts, microinfarcts, and brain weight. Cognition was measured with six cognitive domain scores. Determinants of reserve were socioeconomic status (SES), education, leisure cognitive activities at age 40 (CA40) and at study enrollment (CAbaseline) in late life. The four exogenous predictors of reserve were weakly to moderately inter-correlated. In a multivariate model, all except SES had statistically significant effects on Reserve, the strongest of which were CA40 (β= .31) and CAbaseline (β= .28). The Education effect was negative in the full model (β= −.25). Results suggest that leisure cognitive activities throughout adulthood are more important than education in determining reserve. Discrepancies between cognitive activity and education may be informative in estimating late life reserve.
PMCID: PMC3498078  PMID: 23131600
Cognitive reserve; Alzheimer’s disease; Cerebrovascular disorders; Aging; Neuropsychological test battery; Multivariate analysis
21.  Measuring cognitive reserve based on the decomposition of episodic memory variance 
Brain  2010;133(8):2196-2209.
In later adulthood brain pathology becomes common and trajectories of cognitive change are heterogeneous. Among the multiple determinants of late-life cognitive course, cognitive reserve has been proposed as an important factor that modifies or buffers the impact of brain pathology on cognitive function. This article presents and investigates a novel method for measuring and investigating such factors. The core concept is that in a population where pathology is common and variably present, ‘reserve’ may be defined as the difference between the cognitive performance predicted by an individual's level of pathology and that individual's actual performance. By this definition, people whose measured cognitive performance is better than predicted by pathology have high reserve, whereas those who perform worse than predicted have low reserve. To test this hypothesis, we applied a latent variable model to data from a diverse ageing cohort and decomposed the variance in a measure of episodic memory into three components, one predicted by demographics, one predicted by pathology as measured by structural MRI and a ‘residual’ or ‘reserve’ term that included all remaining variance. To investigate the plausibility of this approach, we then tested the residual component as an operational measure of reserve. Specific predictions about the effects of this putative reserve measure were generated from a general conceptual model of reserve. Each was borne from the results. The results show that the current level of reserve, as measured by this decomposition approach, modifies rates of conversion from mild cognitive impairment to dementia, modifies rates of longitudinal decline in executive function and, most importantly, attenuates the effect of brain atrophy on cognitive decline such that atrophy is more strongly associated with cognitive decline in subjects with low reserve than in those with high reserve. Decomposing the variance in cognitive function scores offers a promising new approach to the measure and study of cognitive reserve.
PMCID: PMC3139935  PMID: 20591858
cognitive ageing; mild cognitive impairment; dementia; neuropsychological tests; longitudinal change; cognitive reserve
22.  Brain Networks Associated with Cognitive Reserve in Healthy Young and Old Adults 
In order to understand the brain networks that mediate cognitive reserve, we explored the relationship between subjects’ network expression during the performance of a memory test and an index of cognitive reserve. Using H215O positron emission tomography, we imaged 17 healthy older subjects and 20 young adults while they performed a serial recognition memory task for nonsense shapes under two conditions: low demand, with a unique shape presented in each study trial; and titrated demand, with a study list size adjusted so that each subject recognized shapes at 75% accuracy. A factor score that summarized years of education, and scores on the NART and the WAIS-R Vocabulary subtest was used as an index of cognitive reserve. The scaled subprofile model was used to identify a set of functionally connected regions (or topography) that changed in expression across the two task conditions and was differentially expressed by the young and elderly subjects. The regions most active in this topography consisted of right hippocampus, posterior insula, thalamus, and right and left operculum; we found concomitant deactivation in right lingual gyrus, inferior parietal lobe and association cortex, left posterior cingulate, and right and left calcarine cortex. Young subjects with higher cognitive reserve showed increased expression of the topography across the two task conditions. Because this topography, which is responsive to increased task demands, was differentially expressed as a function of reserve level, it may represent a neural manifestation of innate or acquired reserve. In contrast, older subjects with higher cognitive reserve showed decreased expression of the topography across tasks. This suggests some functional reorganization of the network used by the young subjects. Thus, for the old subjects this topography may represent an altered, compensatory network that is used to maintain function in the face of age-related physiological changes.
PMCID: PMC3025536  PMID: 15749983
compensation; covariance analysis; education; H215O PET; IQ
23.  Cognitive Decline and Dementia in the Oldest-Old 
The oldest-old are the fastest growing segment of the Western population. Over half of the oldest-old will have dementia, but the etiology is yet unknown. Age is the only risk factor consistently associated with dementia in the oldest-old. Many of the risk and protective factors for dementia in the young elderly, such as ApoE genotype, physical activity, and healthy lifestyle, are not relevant for the oldest-old. Neuropathology is abundant in the oldest-old brains, but specific pathologies of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) or vascular dementia are not necessarily correlated with cognition, as in younger persons. It has been suggested that accumulation of both AD-like and vascular pathologies, loss of synaptic proteins, and neuronal loss contribute to the cognitive decline observed in the oldest-old. Several characteristics of the oldest-old may confound the diagnosis of dementia in this age group. A gradual age-related cognitive decline, particularly in executive function and mental speed, is evident even in non-demented oldest-old. Hearing and vision losses, which are also prevalent in the oldest-old and found in some cases to precede/predict cognitive decline, may mechanically interfere in neuropsychological evaluations. Difficulties in carrying out everyday activities, observed in the majority of the oldest-old, may be the result of motor or physical dysfunction and of neurodegenerative processes. The oldest-old appear to be a select population, who escapes major illnesses or delays their onset and duration toward the end of life. Dementia in the oldest-old may be manifested when a substantial amount of pathology is accumulated, or with a composition of a variety of pathologies. Investigating the clinical and pathological features of dementia in the oldest-old is of great importance in order to develop therapeutic strategies and to provide the most elderly of our population with good quality of life.
PMCID: PMC3678827  PMID: 23908850
Dementia; epidemiology; neurobiology; oldest-old; risk factors
24.  Vascular Contributions to Cognitive Impairment and Dementia 
Background and Purpose
This scientific statement provides an overview of the evidence on vascular contributions to cognitive impairment and dementia. Vascular contributions to cognitive impairment and dementia of later life are common. Definitions of vascular cognitive impairment (VCI), neuropathology, basic science and pathophysiological aspects, role of neuroimaging and vascular and other associated risk factors, and potential opportunities for prevention and treatment are reviewed. This statement serves as an overall guide for practitioners to gain a better understanding of VCI and dementia, prevention, and treatment.
Writing group members were nominated by the writing group co-chairs on the basis of their previous work in relevant topic areas and were approved by the American Heart Association Stroke Council Scientific Statement Oversight Committee, the Council on Epidemiology and Prevention, and the Manuscript Oversight Committee. The writing group used systematic literature reviews (primarily covering publications from 1990 to May 1, 2010), previously published guidelines, personal files, and expert opinion to summarize existing evidence, indicate gaps in current knowledge, and, when appropriate, formulate recommendations using standard American Heart Association criteria. All members of the writing group had the opportunity to comment on the recommendations and approved the final version of this document. After peer review by the American Heart Association, as well as review by the Stroke Council leadership, Council on Epidemiology and Prevention Council, and Scientific Statements Oversight Committee, the statement was approved by the American Heart Association Science Advisory and Coordinating Committee.
The construct of VCI has been introduced to capture the entire spectrum of cognitive disorders associated with all forms of cerebral vascular brain injury—not solely stroke—ranging from mild cognitive impairment through fully developed dementia. Dysfunction of the neurovascular unit and mechanisms regulating cerebral blood flow are likely to be important components of the pathophysiological processes underlying VCI. Cerebral amyloid angiopathy is emerging as an important marker of risk for Alzheimer disease, microinfarction, microhemorrhage and macrohemorrhage of the brain, and VCI. The neuropathology of cognitive impairment in later life is often a mixture of Alzheimer disease and microvascular brain damage, which may overlap and synergize to heighten the risk of cognitive impairment. In this regard, magnetic resonance imaging and other neuroimaging techniques play an important role in the definition and detection of VCI and provide evidence that subcortical forms of VCI with white matter hyperintensities and small deep infarcts are common. In many cases, risk markers for VCI are the same as traditional risk factors for stroke. These risks may include but are not limited to atrial fibrillation, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and hypercholesterolemia. Furthermore, these same vascular risk factors may be risk markers for Alzheimer disease. Carotid intimal-medial thickness and arterial stiffness are emerging as markers of arterial aging and may serve as risk markers for VCI. Currently, no specific treatments for VCI have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. However, detection and control of the traditional risk factors for stroke and cardiovascular disease may be effective in the prevention of VCI, even in older people.
Vascular contributions to cognitive impairment and dementia are important. Understanding of VCI has evolved substantially in recent years, based on preclinical, neuropathologic, neuroimaging, physiological, and epidemiological studies. Transdisciplinary, translational, and transactional approaches are recommended to further our understanding of this entity and to better characterize its neuropsychological profile. There is a need for prospective, quantitative, clinical-pathological-neuroimaging studies to improve knowledge of the pathological basis of neuroimaging change and the complex interplay between vascular and Alzheimer disease pathologies in the evolution of clinical VCI and Alzheimer disease. Long-term vascular risk marker interventional studies beginning as early as midlife may be required to prevent or postpone the onset of VCI and Alzheimer disease. Studies of intensive reduction of vascular risk factors in high-risk groups are another important avenue of research.
PMCID: PMC3778669  PMID: 21778438
AHA Scientific Statements; vascular dementia; Alzheimer disease; risk factors; prevention; treatment
25.  Quantifying Cognitive Reserve in Older Adults by Decomposing Episodic Memory Variance: Replication and Extension 
The theory of cognitive reserve attempts to explain why some individuals are more resilient to age-related brain pathology. Efforts to explore reserve have been hindered by measurement difficulties. Reed et al. (2010) proposed quantifying reserve as residual variance in episodic memory performance that remains after accounting for demographic factors and brain pathology (whole brain, hippocampal, and white matter hyperintensity volumes). This residual variance represents the discrepancy between an individual’s predicted and actual memory performance. The goals of the present study were to extend these methods to a larger, community-based sample and to investigate whether the residual reserve variable is explained by age, predicts longitudinal changes in language, and predicts dementia conversion independent of age. Results support this operational measure of reserve. The residual reserve variable was associated with higher reading ability, lower likelihood of meeting criteria for mild cognitive impairment, lower odds of dementia conversion independent of age, and less decline in language abilities over 3 years. Finally, the residual reserve variable moderated the negative impact of memory variance explained by brain pathology on language decline. This method has the potential to facilitate research on the mechanisms of cognitive reserve and the efficacy of interventions designed to impart reserve.
PMCID: PMC3777696  PMID: 23866160
Cognition; Aging; Mild cognitive impairment; Dementia; Statistical models; Magnetic resonance imaging

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