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1.  Genetic determinants of disease progression in Alzheimer’s disease 
There is a strong genetic basis for late-onset of Alzheimer’s disease (LOAD); thus far 22 genes/loci have been identified that affect the risk of LOAD. However, the relationships among the genetic variations at these loci and clinical progression of the disease have not been fully explored. In the present study, we examined the relationships of 22 known LOAD genes to the progression of AD in 680 AD patients recruited from the University of Pittsburgh Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. Patients were classified as “rapid progressors” if the MMSE changed ≥3 points in 12 months and “slow progressors” if the MMSE changed ≤2 points. We also performed a genome-wide association study in this cohort in an effort to identify new loci for AD progression. Association analysis between SNPs and the progression status of the AD cases was performed using logistic regression model controlled for age, gender, dementia medication use, psychosis, and hypertension. While no significant association was observed with either APOE*4 (p=0.94) or APOE*2 (p=0.33) with AD progression, we found multiple nominally significant associations (p<0.05) either within or adjacent to seven known LOAD genes (INPP5D, MEF2C, TREM2, EPHA1, PTK2B, FERMT2 and CASS4) that harbor both risk and protective SNPs. Genome-wide association analyses identified four suggestive loci (PAX3, CCRN4L, PIGQ and ADAM19) at p<1E-05. Our data suggest that short-term clinical disease progression in AD has genetic basis. Better understanding of these genetic factors could help to improve clinical trial design and potentially affect the development of disease modifying therapies.
PMCID: PMC4245313  PMID: 25114068
LOAD; GWAS; MMSE; AD progression
2.  Arterial Stiffness and β-Amyloid Progression in Nondemented Elderly Adults 
JAMA neurology  2014;71(5):562-568.
Recent studies show that cerebral β-amyloid (Aβ) deposition is associated with blood pressure and measures of arterial stiffness in nondemented individuals.
To examine the association between measures of arterial stiffness and change in Aβ deposition over time.
Deposition of Aβ was determined in a longitudinal observational study of aging by positron emission tomography using the Pittsburgh compound B twice 2 years apart in 81 nondemented individuals 83 years and older. Arterial stiffness was measured with a noninvasive and automated waveform analyzer at the time closest to the second positron emission tomography scan. All measures were performed under standardized conditions. Pulse wave velocity (PWV) was measured in the central (carotid-femoral and heart-femoral PWV), peripheral (femoral-ankle PWV), and mixed (brachial-ankle PWV) vascular beds.
The change in Aβ deposition over 2 years was calculated from the 81 individuals with repeat Aβ-positron emission tomography.
The proportion of Aβ-positive individuals increased from 48% at baseline to 75% at follow-up. Brachial-ankle PWV was significantly higher among Aβ-positive participants at baseline and follow-up. Femoral-ankle PWV was only higher among Aβ-positive participants at follow-up. Measures of central stiffness and blood pressure were not associated with Aβ status at baseline or follow-up, but central stiffness was associated with a change in Aβ deposition over time. Each standard deviation increase in central stiffness (carotid-femoral PWV, P = .001; heart-femoral PWV, P = .004) was linked with increases in Aβ deposition over 2 years.
This study showed that Aβ deposition increases with age in nondemented individuals and that arterial stiffness is strongly associated with the progressive deposition of Aβ in the brain, especially in this age group. The association between Aβ deposition changes over time and generalized arterial stiffness indicated a relationship between the severity of subclinical vascular disease and progressive cerebral Aβ deposition.
PMCID: PMC4267249  PMID: 24687165
3.  Pulse wave velocity is associated with β-amyloid deposition in the brains of very elderly adults 
Neurology  2013;81(19):1711-1718.
To determine arterial stiffness and β-amyloid (Aβ) deposition in the brain of dementia-free older adults.
We studied a cohort of 91 dementia-free participants aged 83–96 years. In 2009, participants completed brain MRI and PET imaging using Pittsburgh compound B (PiB; a marker of amyloid plaques in human brain). In 2011, we measured resting blood pressure (BP), mean arterial pressure (MAP), and arterial stiffness by pulse wave velocity (PWV) in the central, peripheral, and mixed (e.g., brachial ankle PWV [baPWV]) vascular beds, using a noninvasive and automated waveform analyzer.
A total of 44/91 subjects were Aβ-positive on PET scan. Aβ deposition was associated with mixed PWV, systolic BP, and MAP. One SD increase in baPWV resulted in a 2-fold increase in the odds of being Aβ-positive (p = 0.007). High white matter hyperintensity (WMH) burden was associated with increased central PWV, systolic BP, and MAP. Compared to Aβ-negative individuals with low WMH burden, each SD increase in PWV was associated with a 2-fold to 4-fold increase in the odds of being Aβ-positive and having high WMH.
Arterial stiffness was associated with Aβ plaque deposition in the brain, independent of BP and APOE ε4 allele. The associations differed by type of brain abnormality and vascular bed measured (e.g., WMH with central stiffness and Aβ deposition and mixed stiffness). Arterial stiffness was highest in individuals with both high Aβ deposition and WMH, which has been suggested to be a “double hit” contributing to the development of symptomatic dementia.
PMCID: PMC3812104  PMID: 24132374
4.  [18F]-T807 tauopathy PET imaging in chronic traumatic encephalopathy 
F1000Research  2014;3:229.
A new molecular ligand for positron emission tomography (PET) of the human brain, [18F]-T807, is under investigation for the antemortem detection of pathological neurofibrillary aggregates, which are evidence of neurofibrillary tangle (NFT) diseases, also known as tauopathies. Repetitive mild traumatic brain injuries in athletes and battlefield veterans are associated with one such tauopathy, known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). In a recent case report, a former NFL player with clinically probable CTE and a concurrent Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP) –like syndrome was studied using [18F]-T807. The interpretation of this player’s [18F]-T807 PET imaging was complicated by the overlap of tracer uptake in brain regions involved in CTE and PSP with regions associated with either nonspecific [18F]-T807 ligand binding or “aging-associated” binding of [18F]-T807 to authentic tauopathy known to be associated with aging and disease severity (i.e., NFT in the mesial temporal lobe). The implications of these data for the utility of [18F]-T807 in the pre-mortem detection of CTE are summarized.
PMCID: PMC4240239  PMID: 25469232
5.  Chronic traumatic encephalopathy: clinical‐biomarker correlations and current concepts in pathogenesis 
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a recently revived term used to describe a neurodegenerative process that occurs as a long term complication of repetitive mild traumatic brain injury (TBI). Corsellis provided one of the classic descriptions of CTE in boxers under the name “dementia pugilistica” (DP). Much recent attention has been drawn to the apparent association of CTE with contact sports (football, soccer, hockey) and with frequent battlefield exposure to blast waves generated by improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Recently, a promising serum biomarker has been identified by measurement of serum levels of the neuronal microtubule associated protein tau. New positron emission tomography (PET) ligands (e.g., [18 F] T807) that identify brain tauopathy have been successfully deployed for the in vitro and in vivo detection of presumptive tauopathy in the brains of subjects with clinically probable CTE.
Major academic and lay publications on DP/CTE were reviewed beginning with the 1928 paper describing the initial use of the term CTE by Martland.
The major current concepts in the neurological, psychiatric, neuropsychological, neuroimaging, and body fluid biomarker science of DP/CTE have been summarized. Newer achievements, such as serum tau and [18 F] T807 tauopathy imaging, are also introduced and their significance has been explained.
Recent advances in the science of DP/CTE hold promise for elucidating a long sought accurate determination of the true prevalence of CTE. This information holds potentially important public health implications for estimating the risk of contact sports in inflicting permanent and/or progressive brain damage on children, adolescents, and adults.
PMCID: PMC4249716  PMID: 25231386
6.  Antihypertensive drugs decrease risk of Alzheimer disease 
Neurology  2013;81(10):896-903.
The aim of this study was to determine whether use of diuretics, angiotensin-1 receptor blockers (ARB), angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE-I), calcium channel blockers (CCB), or β-blockers (BB) was associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer disease (AD) dementia in participants with normal cognition or mild cognitive impairment (MCI).
Secondary longitudinal data analysis of the Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory Study in older adults at least 75 years of age with normal cognition (n = 1,928) or MCI (n = 320) over a median 6.1-year period using Cox proportional hazard models after adjusting for confounders.
Diuretic use was reported by 15.6%, ARB 6.1%, ACE-I 15.1%, CCB 14.8%, and BB 20.5%. Of the 2,248 participants, 290 (13%) developed AD dementia. Hazard ratio for incident AD dementia among participants with normal cognition was 0.51 in diuretic (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.31–0.82), 0.31 in ARB (95% CI 0.14–0.68), 0.50 in ACE-I (95% CI 0.29–0.83), 0.62 in CCB (95% CI 0.35–1.09), and 0.58 in BB (95% CI 0.36–0.93) users and was not significantly altered when mean systolic blood pressure was above 140 mm Hg. In participants with MCI, only diuretic use was associated with decreased risk (hazard ratio = 0.38, 95% CI 0.20–0.73).
Diuretic, ARB, and ACE-I use was, in addition to and/or independently of mean systolic blood pressure, associated with reduced risk of AD dementia in participants with normal cognition, while only diuretic use was associated with reduced risk in participants with MCI.
PMCID: PMC3885216  PMID: 23911756
7.  Cerebral blood flow changes after brain injury in human amyloid-beta knock-in mice 
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is an environmental risk factor for Alzheimer's disease (AD). Increased brain concentrations of amyloid-β (Aβ) peptides and impaired cerebral blood flow (CBF) are shared pathologic features of TBI and AD and promising therapeutic targets. We used arterial spin-labeling magnetic resonance imaging to examine if CBF changes after TBI are influenced by human Aβ and amenable to simvastatin therapy. CBF was measured 3 days and 3 weeks after controlled cortical impact (CCI) injury in transgenic human Aβ-expressing APPNLh/NLh mice compared to murine Aβ-expressing C57Bl/6J wild types. Compared to uninjured littermates, CBF was reduced in the cortex of the injured hemisphere in both Aβ transgenics and wild types; deficits were more pronounced in the transgenic group, which exhibited injury-induced increased concentrations of human Aβ. In the hemisphere contralateral to CCI, CBF levels were stable in Aβ transgenic mice but increased in wild-type mice, both relative to uninjured littermates. Post-injury treatment of Aβ transgenic mice with simvastatin lowered brain Aβ concentrations, attenuated deficits in CBF ipsilateral to injury, restored hyperemia contralateral to injury, and reduced brain tissue loss. Future studies examining long-term effects of simvastatin therapy on CBF and chronic neurodegenerative changes after TBI are warranted.
PMCID: PMC3677107  PMID: 23443172
Alzheimer's disease; amyloid; arterial spin-labeling MRI; blood flow; brain injury; statin
8.  In vivo assessment of amyloid-β deposition in non-demented very elderly subjects 
Annals of neurology  2013;73(6):751-761.
This study examined amyloid-β (Aβ) deposition in 190 non-demented subjects aged 82 and older to determine the proportion of Aβ-positive scans and associations with cognition, APOE status, brain volume, and Ginko biloba (Gb) treatment.
Subjects who agreed to participate had a brain MRI and positron emission tomography scan with 11C-labeled Pittsburgh compound B (PiB) following completion of a Gb treatment clinical trial. The youngest subject in this imaging study was 82, and the mean age of the subjects was 85.5 at the time of the scans;152 (80%) were cognitively normal and 38 (20%) were diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI)at the time of the PiB study.
A high proportion of the cognitively normal subjects (51%) and MCI subjects (68%) were PiB-positive. The APOE*4 allele was more prevalent in PiB-positive than in PiB-negative subjects (30% vs 6%). Measures of memory, language and attentional functions were worse in PiB-positive than in PiB-negative subjects, when both normal and MCI cases were analyzed together; however no significant associations were observed within either normal or MCI subject groups alone. There was no relationship between Gb treatment and Aβ deposition as determined by PiB.
The data revealed a 55% prevalence of PiB-positivity in non-demented subjects age >80 and 85% PiB-positivity in the APOE*4 non-demented elderly subjects. The findings also showed that long-term exposure to Gb did not affect the prevalence of cerebral Aβ deposition.
PMCID: PMC3725727  PMID: 23596051
9.  Classification of Amyloid-Positivity in Controls: Comparison of Visual Read and Quantitative Approaches 
NeuroImage  2013;71:207-215.
An important research application of amyloid imaging with positron emission tomography (PET) is detection of the earliest evidence of fibrillar amyloid-beta (Aβ) deposition. Use of amyloid PET for this purpose, requires a reproducible method for defining a cutoff that separates individuals with no significant Aβ deposition from those in which Aβ deposition has begun. We previously reported the iterative outlier approach (IO) for the analysis of Pittsburgh Compound-B (PiB) PET data. Developments in amyloid imaging since the initial report of IO have led us to re-examine the generalizability of this method. IO was developed using full-dynamic atrophy-corrected PiB PET data obtained from a group of control subjects with a fairly distinct separation between PiB-positive [PiB(+)] and PiB-negative [PiB(−)] subjects.
We tested the performance of IO using late-summed tissue ratio data with atrophy correction or with an automated template method without atrophy correction and tested the robustness of the method when applied to a cohort of older subjects in which separation between PiB(+) and PiB(−) subjects was not so distinct.
The IO method did not perform consistently across analyses and performed particularly poorly when separation was less clear. We found that a sparse k-means (SKM) cluster analysis approach performed significantly better; performing more consistently across methods and subject cohorts. We also compared SKM to a consensus visual read approach and found very good correspondence.
The visual read and SKM methods, applied together, may optimize the identification of early Aβ deposition. These methods have the potential to provide a standard approach to the detection of PiB-positivity that is generalizable across centers.
PMCID: PMC3605888  PMID: 23353602
Amyloid; Positron Emission Tomography; Pittsburgh Compound B; Visual Read; Cluster analysis
10.  Acute and chronic traumatic encephalopathies: pathogenesis and biomarkers 
Nature reviews. Neurology  2013;9(4):192-200.
Over the past decade, public awareness of the long-term pathological consequences of traumatic brain injury (TBI) has increased. Such awareness has been stimulated mainly by reports of progressive neurological dysfunction in athletes exposed to repetitive concussions in high-impact sports such as boxing and American football, and by the rising number of TBIs in war veterans who are now more likely to survive explosive blasts owing to improved treatment. Moreover, the entity of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)—which is marked by prominent neuropsychiatric features including dementia, parkinsonism, depression, agitation, psychosis, and aggression—has become increasingly recognized as a potential late outcome of repetitive TBI. Annually, about 1% of the population in developed countries experiences a clinically relevant TBI. The goal of this Review is to provide an overview of the latest understanding of CTE pathophysiology, and to delineate the key issues that are challenging clinical and research communities, such as accurate quantification of the risk of CTE, and development of reliable biomarkers for single-incident TBI and CTE.
PMCID: PMC4006940  PMID: 23558985
11.  2012: the year in dementia 
Lancet neurology  2013;12(1):4-6.
PMCID: PMC4006941  PMID: 23237888
12.  The Long-Term Effects of Conventional and Atypical Antipsychotics in Patients With Probable Alzheimer’s Disease 
The American journal of psychiatry  2013;170(9):1051-1058.
The authors sought to determine the effects of conventional and atypical antipsychotic use on time to nursing home admission and time to death in a group of outpatients with mild to moderate probable Alzheimer’s disease.
The authors examined time to nursing home admission and time to death in 957 patients with the diagnosis of probable Alzheimer’s disease who had at least one follow-up evaluation (mean follow-up time, 4.3 years [SD=2.7]; range, 0.78–18.0 years) using Cox proportional hazard models adjusted for age, gender, education level, dementia severity, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, heart disease, extrapyramidal signs, depression, psychosis, aggression, agitation, and dementia medication use.
A total of 241 patients (25%) were exposed to antipsychotics at some time during follow-up (conventional, N=138; atypical, N=95; both, N=8). Nursing home admission (63% compared with 23%) and death (69% compared with 34%) were more frequent in individuals taking conventional than atypical antipsychotics. In amodel that included demographic and cognitive variables, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, heart disease, incident strokes, and extrapyramidal signs, only conventional antipsychotic use was associated with time to nursing home admission. However, the association was no longer significant after adjustment for psychiatric symptoms. Psychosis was strongly associated with nursing home admission and time to death, but neither conventional nor atypical antipsychotics were associated with time to death.
The use of antipsychotic medications, both conventional and atypical, was not associated with either time to nursing home admission or time to death after adjustment for relevant covariates. Rather, it was the presence of psychiatric symptoms, including psychosis and agitation, that was linked to increased risk of institutionalization and death after adjustment for exposure to antipsychotics.
PMCID: PMC3990263  PMID: 23896958
13.  Cognitive trajectories associated with β-amyloid deposition in the oldest-old without dementia 
Neurology  2013;80(15):1378-1384.
To determine whether a high prevalence (55%) of Aβ deposition in a cohort of individuals remaining dementia-free into their 9th and 10th decades is associated with cognitive decline prior to imaging.
A total of 194 participants (mean age 85.5 years, range 82–95) who completed the Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory Study (GEMS) and remained dementia-free subsequently completed Pittsburgh compound B–PET imaging. We examined cross-sectional associations between Aβ status and performance on a broad neuropsychological test battery completed at GEMS entry 7–9 years prior to neuroimaging. We also longitudinally examined cognition over annual evaluations using linear mixed models.
At GEMS screening (2000–2002), participants who were Aβ-positive in 2009 had lower performance on the Stroop test (p < 0.01) and Raven's Progressive Matrices (p = 0.05), with trend level difference for Block Design (p = 0.07). Longitudinal analyses showed significant slope differences for immediate and delayed recall of the Rey-Osterrieth figure, semantic fluency, and Trail-Making Test parts A and B, indicating greater performance decline prior to neuroimaging for Aβ-positive relative to Aβ-negative participants (ps < 0.05).
Highly prevalent Aβ deposition in oldest-older adults is associated with cognitive decline in visual memory, semantic fluency, and psychomotor speed beginning 7–9 years prior to neuroimaging. Mean differences in nonmemory domains, primarily executive functions, between Aβ-status groups may be detectable 7–9 years before neuroimaging.
PMCID: PMC3662268  PMID: 23516317
14.  Association between performance on Neurology In-Training and Certification Examinations 
Neurology  2013;80(2):206-209.
This study analyzed the relationship between performance on the American Academy of Neurology Residency In-Service Training Examination (RITE) and subsequent performance on the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN) Certification Examination.
Pearson correlation coefficients were used to examine the relationship between performance on the RITE and the Certification Examination for 2 cohorts of adult neurologists and 2 cohorts of child neurologists. The 2 cohorts represented test takers for 2008 and 2009.
For adult neurologists, the correlation between the total RITE and the Certification Examination scores was 0.77 (p < 0.01) in 2008 and 0.65 (p < 0.01) in 2009. For child neurologists, it was 0.74 (p < 0.01) in 2008 and 0.56 (p < 0.01) in 2009.
For 2 consecutive years, there was a significant correlation between performance on the RITE and performance on the ABPN Certification Examination for both adult and child neurologists. The RITE is a self-assessment examination, and performance on the test is a positive predictor of future performance on the ABPN Certification Examination.
PMCID: PMC3589193  PMID: 23296130
15.  Incidence of mild cognitive impairment in the Pittsburgh Cardiovascular Health Study–Cognition Study 
Neurology  2012;79(15):1599-1606.
Objectives and Methods:
The purpose of this study was to examine the incidence of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and patterns of progression from incident MCI to dementia in 285 cognitively normal subjects (mean age, 78.9 years) in the Cardiovascular Health Study–Cognition Study from 1998–1999 to 2010–2011.
Two hundred (70%) of the participants progressed to MCI; the age-adjusted incidence of MCI was 111.09 (95% confidence interval, 88.13–142.95) per 1,000 person-years. A total of 107 (53.5%) of the incident MCI subjects progressed to dementia. The mean time from MCI to dementia was 2.8 ± 1.8 years. Forty (20%) of the incident MCI cases had an “unstable” course: 19 (9.5%) converted to MCI and later returned to normal; 10 (5%) converted to MCI, to normal, and later back to MCI; 7 (3.5%) converted to MCI, to normal, to MCI, and later to dementia; and 4 (2%) converted to MCI, to normal, and later to dementia. There was an increased mortality rate among the cognitively normal group (110.10 per 1,000 person-years) compared to those with incident MCI who converted to dementia (41.32 per 1,000 person-years).
The majority of the subjects aged >80 years developed an MCI syndrome, and half of them progressed to dementia. Once the MCI syndrome was present, the symptoms of dementia appeared within 2 to 3 years. Progression from normal to MCI or from normal to MCI to dementia is not always linear; subjects who developed MCI and later returned to normal can subsequently progress to dementia. Competing mortality and morbidity influence the study of incident MCI and dementia in population cohorts.
PMCID: PMC3475628  PMID: 23019262
16.  Amyloid Imaging in Dementias With Atypical Presentation 
We explored the potential value of amyloid imaging in patients with atypical presentations of dementia. Twenty-eight patients with atypical dementia underwent PET imaging with the amyloid imaging tracer Pittsburgh Compound-B (PiB). Twenty-six had [18F]fluoro-2-deoxy-D-glucose (FDG) PET scans. After extensive clinical evaluation, this group of patients generated considerable diagnostic uncertainty and received working diagnoses that included possible AD (pAD), focal dementias [e.g. posterior cortical atrophy (PCA)], or cases in which no clear diagnostic category could be determined (dementia of uncertain etiology; DUE). Patients were classified as PiB-positive, -negative, or -intermediate based on objective criteria. Anterior-posterior (A-P) and left-right (L-R) indices of PiB and FDG uptake were calculated to examine differences in distribution of amyloid pathology and metabolic changes associated with clinical phenotype. Eleven patients (39%) were PiB-positive, 16 were PiB-negative (57%) and one (4%) was intermediate. By diagnostic category, 3/10 patients (30%) with DUE, 1/5 (20%) with primary progressive aphasia (PPA), 3/5 (60%) with posterior cortical atrophy (PCA), and 4/7 (57%) with pAD were PiB-positive. Brain metabolism of both PiB-positive and -negative patients were generally similar by phenotype, but differed from typical AD. PCA patients also appeared to differ in their relative distribution of PiB compared to typical AD, consistent with their atypical phenotype. AD pathology is frequently present in atypical presentations of dementia and can be identified by amyloid imaging. Clinical phenotype is more related to the pattern of cerebral hypometabolism than the presence/absence of amyloid pathology. These findings have diagnostic, prognostic, and therapeutic implications.
PMCID: PMC3517915  PMID: 22285638
Amyloid imaging; PiB; PET; Alzheimer’s Disease; Posterior Cortical Atrophy; dementia; focal dementia
17.  Statins, Risk of Dementia and Cognitive Function: Secondary Analysis of the Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory Study (GEMS) 
To examine whether lipid lowering medications (LLMs) and especially statin drugs can delay cognitive decline and dementia onset in individuals with and without Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) at baseline.
Longitudinal, observational study of 3,069 cognitively healthy elderly, ages 75 years and older, who were enrolled in the Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory Study. Primary outcome measure was the time to adjudicated all-cause dementia and Alzheimer dementia (AD). Secondary outcome measure was the change in global cognitive function over time measured by 3MSE and ADAS-cog scores.
Among participants without MCI at baseline current use of statins was consistently associated with a reduced risk of all cause dementia (HR 0. 79, 95% confidence interval, 0.65–0.96, p=0.021) and AD (HR 0.57, 95% confidence interval, 0.39–0.85, p= 0.005). In participants who initiated statin therapy lipophilic statins tended to reduce dementia risk more than nonlipophilic agents. In contrast there was no significant association between LLM use (including statins), dementia onset or cognitive decline in individuals with baseline MCI. However, in individuals without MCI at baseline there was a trend for a neuroprotective effect of statins on cognitive decline.
Statins may slow the rate of cognitive decline and delay the onset of AD and all cause dementia in cognitively healthy elderly individuals whereas individuals with MCI may not have comparable cognitive protection from these agents. However, the results from this observational study need to be interpreted with caution and will require confirmation by randomized clinical trials stratifying treatment groups based on MCI status at baseline.
PMCID: PMC3140577  PMID: 21236699
Cognitive function; 3HMG-ACoA reductase inhibitors; Mild Cognitive Impairment; dementia
18.  Genome-wide association analysis of age-at-onset in Alzheimer’s disease 
Molecular psychiatry  2011;17(12):1340-1346.
The risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is strongly determined by genetic factors and recent genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified several genes for the disease risk. In addition to the disease risk, age-at-onset (AAO) of AD has also strong genetic component with an estimated heritability of 42%. Identification of AAO genes may help to understand the biological mechanisms that regulate the onset of the disease. Here we report the first GWAS focused on identifying genes for the AAO of AD. We performed a genome-wide meta analysis on 3 samples comprising a total of 2,222 AD cases. A total of ~2.5 million directly genotyped or imputed SNPs were analyzed in relation to AAO of AD. As expected, the most significant associations were observed in the APOE region on chromosome 19 where several SNPs surpassed the conservative genome-wide significant threshold (P<5E-08). The most significant SNP outside the APOE region was located in the DCHS2 gene on chromosome 4q31.3 (rs1466662; P=4.95E-07). There were 19 additional significant SNPs in this region at P<1E-04 and the DCHS2 gene is expressed in the cerebral cortex and thus is a potential candidate for affecting AAO in AD. These findings need to be confirmed in additional well-powered samples.
PMCID: PMC3262952  PMID: 22005931
Genome-wide association study; age-at-onset; Alzheimer’s disease; single-nucleotide polymorphisms; meta analysis
19.  Genome-wide Association Study of Alzheimer’s disease with Psychotic Symptoms 
Molecular psychiatry  2011;17(12):1316-1327.
Psychotic symptoms occur in approximately 40% of subjects with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and are associated with more rapid cognitive decline and increased functional deficits. They show heritability up to 61% and have been proposed as a marker for a disease subtype suitable for gene mapping efforts. We undertook a combined analysis of three genome-wide association studies (GWAS) to identify loci that a) increase susceptibility to an AD and subsequent psychotic symptoms; or b) modify risk of psychotic symptoms in the presence of neurodegeneration caused by AD. 1299 AD cases with psychosis (AD+P), 735 AD cases without psychosis (AD-P) and 5659 controls were drawn from GERAD1, the NIA-LOAD family study and the University of Pittsburgh ADRC GWAS. Unobserved genotypes were imputed to provide data on > 1.8 million SNPs. Analyses in each dataset were completed comparing a) AD+P to AD-P cases, and b) AD+P cases with controls (GERAD1, ADRC only). Aside from the APOE locus, the strongest evidence for association was observed in an intergenic region on chromosome 4 (rs753129; ‘AD+PvAD-P’ P=2.85 × 10−7; ‘AD+PvControls’ P=1.11 × 10−4). SNPs upstream of SLC2A9 (rs6834555, P=3.0×10−7) and within VSNL1 (rs4038131, P=5.9×10−7) showed strongest evidence for association with AD+P when compared to controls. These findings warrant further investigation in larger, appropriately powered samples in which the presence of psychotic symptoms in AD has been well characterised.
PMCID: PMC3272435  PMID: 22005930
Alzheimer’s disease; psychosis; behavioural symptoms; genome-wide association study; genetic
20.  Toward the Treatment and Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease: Rational Strategies and Recent Progress 
Annual review of medicine  2013;64:367-383.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the major cause of late-life brain failure. In the past 25 years, autosomal dominant forms of AD were found to be primariy attributable to mutations in one of two presenilins, polytopic proteins that contain the catalytic site of the γ-secretase protease that releases the amyloid beta (Aβ) peptide. Some familial AD is also due to mutations in the amyloid precursor protein (APP), but recently a mutation in APP was discovered that reduces Aβ generation and is protective against AD, further implicating amyloid metabolism. Prion-like seeding of amyloid fibrils and neurofibrillary tangles has been invoked to explain the stereotypical spread of AD within the brain. Treatment trials with anti-Aβ antibodies have shown target engagement, if not significant treatment effects. Attention is increasingly focused on presymptomatic intervention, because Aβ mismetabolism begins up to 25 years before symptoms begin. AD trials deriving from new biological information involve extraordinary international collaboration and may hold the best hope for success in the fight against AD.
PMCID: PMC3625402  PMID: 23327526
dementia; neurodegeneration; cognitive decline; memory disorder; amyloidosis
21.  Anticipatory Grief in New Family Caregivers of Persons with Mild Cognitive Impairment and Dementia 
Anticipatory grief is the process of experiencing normal phases of bereavement in advance of the loss of a significant person. To date, anticipatory grief has been examined in family caregivers to individuals who have had Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) an average of 3 to 6 years. Whether such grief is manifested early in the disease trajectory (at diagnosis) is unknown. Using a cross-sectional design, we examined differences in the nature and extent of anticipatory grief between family caregivers of persons with a new diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment (MCI, n=43) or AD (n=30). We also determined whether anticipatory grief levels were associated with caregiver demographics, caregiving burden, depressive symptoms and marital quality. Mean anticipatory grief levels were high in the total sample, with AD caregivers endorsing significantly more anticipatory grief than MCI caregivers. In general, AD caregivers endorsed difficulty functioning whereas MCI caregivers focused on themes of “missing the person” they once knew. Being a female caregiver, reporting higher levels of objective caregiving burden and higher depression levels each bore independent, statistically significant relationships with anticipatory grief. Given these findings, family caregivers of individuals with mild cognitive deficits or a new AD diagnosis may benefit from interventions specifically addressing anticipatory grief.
PMCID: PMC3251637  PMID: 21946013
Anticipatory grief; dementia caregiving; mild cognitive impairment
22.  CR1 and the “Vanishing Amyloid” Hypothesis of Alzheimer’s Disease 
Biological psychiatry  2013;73(5):393-395.
PMCID: PMC3600375  PMID: 23399469
23.  Gray Matter Atrophy Associated with Extrapyramidal Signs in the Lewy Body Variant of Alzheimer’s Disease 
Journal of Alzheimer's disease : JAD  2012;32(4):1043-1049.
Up to 60% of the patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) can have cortical or brainstem Lewy bodies (LB), and extrapyramidal signs (EPS) have been found to be associated with LB in AD patients. However, the relationship between EPS and brain volumes has not been studied in the LB variant of AD using structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The purpose of this study was to determine the relationship between patterns of brain atrophy and clinical EPS in patients with pathologically confirmed AD. We compared gray matter structure using voxel-based morphometry in 29 Definite AD cases, 16 (55%) of whom also had LBs identified with α-synuclein immunohistochemistry. Multivariate models analyzed brain volume at a voxel level accounting for subject group, Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), EPS, total brain volume, and the time from MRI scan to death. There was no significant difference in gray matter volume in the Definite AD patients as a function of LB. There was a significant association between gray matter volumes and the MMSE in AD patients, both with and without LBs. There was a significant correlation between gray matter volume and EPS only in the group of AD patients with LBs, and not in those with pure AD. These findings suggest that that the etiology of EPS in patients with the LB variant of AD is associated with neuronal loss in the nigrostriatal tracts. By contrast, the source of the EPS in AD alone appears to be less well localized.
PMCID: PMC3589734  PMID: 22886020
Alzheimer’s disease; extrapyramidal signs; imaging; Lewy bodies; magnetic resonance imaging; voxel-based morphometry
24.  Early AD pathology in a [C-11]PiB-negative case: a PiB-amyloid imaging, biochemical, and immunohistochemical study 
Acta Neuropathologica  2012;123(3):433-447.
Amyloid-β (Aβ) deposits are detectable in the brain in vivo using positron emission tomography (PET) and [C-11]-labeled Pittsburgh Compound B ([C-11]PiB); however, the sensitivity of this technique is not well understood. In this study, we examined Aβ pathology in an individual who had clinical diagnoses of probable dementia with Lewy bodies and possible Alzheimer’s disease (AD) but with no detectable [C-11]PiB PET retention ([C-11]PiB(−)) when imaged 17 months prior to death. Brain samples were processed in parallel with region-matched samples from an individual with a clinical diagnosis of probable AD and a positive [C-11]PiB PET scan ([C-11]PiB(+)) when imaged 10 months prior to death. In the [C-11]PiB(−) case, Aβ plaques were sparse, occupying less than 2% cortical area, and were weakly labeled with 6-CN-PiB, a highly fluorescent derivative of PiB. In contrast, Aβ plaques occupied up to 12% cortical area in the [C-11]PiB(+) case, and were intensely labeled with 6-CN-PIB. The [C-11]PiB(−) case had low levels of [H-3]PiB binding (<100 pmol/g) and Aβ1–42 (<500 pmol/g) concentration except in the frontal cortex where Aβ1–42 values (788 pmol/g) approached cortical values in the [C-11]PiB(+) case (800–1,700 pmol/g). In several cortical regions of the [C-11]PiB(−) case, Aβ1–40 levels were within the range of cortical Aβ1–40 values in the [C-11]PiB(+) case. Antemortem [C-11]PiB DVR values correlated well with region-matched postmortem measures of Aβ1–42 and Aβ1–40 in the [C-11]PiB(+), and with Aβ1–42 only in the [C-11]PiB(−) case. The low ratios of [H-3]PiB binding levels to Aβ concentrations and 6-CN-PiB to Aβ plaque loads in the [C-11]PiB(−) case indicate that Aβ pathology in the brain may be associated with low or undetectable levels of [C-11]PiB retention. Studies in greater numbers of [C-11]PiB PET autopsy cases are needed to define the Aβ concentration and [H-3]PiB binding levels required to produce a positive [C-11]PiB PET signal.
PMCID: PMC3383058  PMID: 22271153
Alzheimer’s disease; Brain amyloidosis; Pittsburgh Compound B; Plaques; Imaging
25.  Acute Blast Injury Reduces Brain Abeta in Two Rodent Species 
Blast-induced traumatic brain injury (TBI) has been a major cause of morbidity and mortality in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. How the primary blast wave affects the brain is not well understood. In particular, it is unclear whether blast injures the brain through mechanisms similar to those found in non-blast closed impact injuries (nbTBI). The β-amyloid (Aβ) peptide associated with the development of Alzheimer’s disease is elevated acutely following TBI in humans as well as in experimental animal models of nbTBI. We examined levels of brain Aβ following experimental blast injury using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays for Aβ 40 and 42. In both rat and mouse models of blast injury, rather than being increased, endogenous rodent brain Aβ levels were decreased acutely following injury. Levels of the amyloid precursor protein (APP) were increased following blast exposure although there was no evidence of axonal pathology based on APP immunohistochemical staining. Unlike the findings in nbTBI animal models, levels of the β-secretase, β-site APP cleaving enzyme 1, and the γ-secretase component presenilin-1 were unchanged following blast exposure. These studies have implications for understanding the nature of blast injury to the brain. They also suggest that strategies aimed at lowering Aβ production may not be effective for treating acute blast injury to the brain.
PMCID: PMC3527696  PMID: 23267342
abeta; amyloid precursor protein; β-site APP cleaving enzyme 1; blast; mouse; presenilin-1; rat; traumatic brain injury

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