This article reviews existing research at the intersection of genetics and economics, presents some new findings that illustrate the state of genoeconomics research, and surveys the prospects of this emerging field. Twin studies suggest that economic outcomes and preferences, once corrected for measurement error, appear to be about as heritable as many medical conditions and personality traits. Consistent with this pattern, we present new evidence on the heritability of permanent income and wealth. Turning to genetic association studies, we survey the main ways that the direct measurement of genetic variation across individuals is likely to contribute to economics, and we outline the challenges that have slowed progress in making these contributions. The most urgent problem facing researchers in this field is that most existing efforts to find associations between genetic variation and economic behavior are based on samples that are too small to ensure adequate statistical power. This has led to many false positives in the literature. We suggest a number of possible strategies to improve and remedy this problem: (a) pooling data sets, (b) using statistical techniques that exploit the greater information content of many genes considered jointly, and (c) focusing on economically relevant traits that are most proximate to known biological mechanisms.
genetics; heritability; GWAS
To determine whether adhering to a healthy lifestyle in midlife may reduce the risk of dementia.
Case-control study nested in a prospective cohort.
The Honolulu-Asia Aging Study on Oahu, Hawaii.
3468 Japanese American men (mean age 52, 1965–1968) examined for dementia after 25 years.
Men at low risk were defined as those with the following midlife characteristics: nonsmoking, body mass index <25.0 kg/m2, physically active, and having a healthy diet (based on alcohol, dairy, meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, cereals, and monounsaturated-to-saturated fat). Logistic regression was used to calculate odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for developing overall dementia, Alzheimer’s disease (AD), and vascular dementia (VaD), adjusting for potential confounders.
Dementia was diagnosed in 6.4% of men (52.5% with AD, 35.0% with VaD). Examining the risk factors individually, BMI was most strongly associated with increased risk of overall dementia (OR, 1.87; 95% CI, 1.26–2.77; BMI >25.0 vs. <22.6 kg/m2). All of the individual risk factors except diet score were significantly associated with VaD, whereas none were significantly associated with AD alone. Men with all four low-risk characteristics (7.2% of cohort) had the lowest OR for overall dementia (OR, 0.36; 95% CI, 0.15–0.84), as compared to other men. There were no significant associations between the combined low-risk characteristics and the risk of AD alone.
Having a healthy lifestyle in midlife is associated with a lower risk of dementia in late life among Japanese American men.
dementia; lifestyle; risk
Stiffness of the central arteries in aging may contribute to cerebral microvascular disease independent of hypertension and other vascular risk factors. Few studies of older adults have evaluated the association of central arterial stiffness with longitudinal cognitive decline.
We evaluated associations of aortic pulse wave velocity (centimeters per second), a measure of central arterial stiffness, with cognitive function and decline in 552 participants in the Health, Aging, and Body Composition (Health ABC) study Cognitive Vitality Substudy (mean age ± SD = 73.1 ± 2.7 years, 48% men and 42% black). Aortic pulse wave velocity was assessed at baseline via Doppler-recorded carotid and femoral pulse waveforms. Global cognitive function, verbal memory, psychomotor, and perceptual speed were evaluated over 6 years.
After adjustment for demographics, vascular risk factors, and chronic conditions, each 1 SD higher aortic pulse wave velocity (389 cm/s) was associated with poorer cognitive function: −0.11 SD for global function (SE = 0.04, p < .01), −0.09 SD for psychomotor speed (SE = 0.04, p = .03), and −0.12 SD for perceptual speed (SE = 0.04, p < .01). Higher aortic pulse wave velocity was also associated with greater decline in psychomotor speed, defined as greater than 1 SD more than the mean change (odds ratio = 1.42 [95% confidence interval = 1.06, 1.90]) but not with verbal memory or longitudinal decline in global function, verbal memory, or perceptual speed. Results were consistent with mixed models of decline in each cognitive test.
In well-functioning older adults, central arterial stiffness may contribute to cognitive decline independent of hypertension and other vascular risk factors.
Aging; Arterial stiffness; Cognitive decline
Aortic stiffness increases with age and vascular risk factor exposure and is associated with increased risk for structural and functional abnormalities in the brain. High ambient flow and low impedance are thought to sensitize the cerebral microcirculation to harmful effects of excessive pressure and flow pulsatility. However, haemodynamic mechanisms contributing to structural brain lesions and cognitive impairment in the presence of high aortic stiffness remain unclear. We hypothesized that disproportionate stiffening of the proximal aorta as compared with the carotid arteries reduces wave reflection at this important interface and thereby facilitates transmission of excessive pulsatile energy into the cerebral microcirculation, leading to microvascular damage and impaired function. To assess this hypothesis, we evaluated carotid pressure and flow, carotid–femoral pulse wave velocity, brain magnetic resonance images and cognitive scores in participants in the community-based Age, Gene/Environment Susceptibility – Reykjavik study who had no history of stroke, transient ischaemic attack or dementia (n = 668, 378 females, 69–93 years of age). Aortic characteristic impedance was assessed in a random subset (n = 422) and the reflection coefficient at the aorta–carotid interface was computed. Carotid flow pulsatility index was negatively related to the aorta–carotid reflection coefficient (R = −0.66, P<0.001). Carotid pulse pressure, pulsatility index and carotid–femoral pulse wave velocity were each associated with increased risk for silent subcortical infarcts (hazard ratios of 1.62–1.71 per standard deviation, P<0.002). Carotid–femoral pulse wave velocity was associated with higher white matter hyperintensity volume (0.108 ± 0.045 SD/SD, P = 0.018). Pulsatility index was associated with lower whole brain (−0.127 ± 0.037 SD/SD, P<0.001), grey matter (−0.079 ± 0.038 SD/SD, P = 0.038) and white matter (−0.128 ± 0.039 SD/SD, P<0.001) volumes. Carotid–femoral pulse wave velocity (−0.095 ± 0.043 SD/SD, P = 0.028) and carotid pulse pressure (−0.114 ± 0.045 SD/SD, P = 0.013) were associated with lower memory scores. Pulsatility index was associated with lower memory scores (−0.165 ± 0.039 SD/SD, P<0.001), slower processing speed (−0.118 ± 0.033 SD/SD, P<0.001) and worse performance on tests assessing executive function (−0.155 ± 0.041 SD/SD, P<0.001). When magnetic resonance imaging measures (grey and white matter volumes, white matter hyperintensity volumes and prevalent subcortical infarcts) were included in cognitive models, haemodynamic associations were attenuated or no longer significant, consistent with the hypothesis that increased aortic stiffness and excessive flow pulsatility damage the microcirculation, leading to quantifiable tissue damage and reduced cognitive performance. Marked stiffening of the aorta is associated with reduced wave reflection at the interface between carotid and aorta, transmission of excessive flow pulsatility into the brain, microvascular structural brain damage and lower scores in various cognitive domains.
haemodynamics; aortic stiffness; magnetic resonance imaging; brain structure; cognitive function
To study the association of microinfarcts (MBI) to ante-mortem global cognitive function (CF), and to investigate whether brain weight (BW), Alzheimer’s lesions (neurofibrillary tangles (NFT) or neuritic plaques (NP) mediate the association.
Subjects are 437 well-characterized male decedents from the Honolulu Asia Aging Autopsy Study. Brain pathology was ascertained with standardized methods, CF was measured by the Cognitive Abilities Screening Instrument (CASI)and data were analyzed using formal mediation analyses, adjusted for age at death, time between last CF measure and death, education, and head size. Based on ante-mortem diagnoses, demented and non-demented subjects were examined together and separately.
In those with no dementia, MBI were strongly associated with the last ante-mortem CF score; this was significantly mediated by BW, and not NFT or NP. In contrast, among those with an ante-mortem diagnosis of dementia, NFT had the strongest associations with BW and with CF, and MIB were modestly associated with CF.
This suggests microinfarct pathology is a significant and independent factor contributing to brain atrophy and cognitive impairment, particularly before dementia is clinically evident. The role of vascular damage as initiator, stimulator, or additive contributor to neurodegeneration may differ depending on when in the trajectory towards dementia the lesions develop.
Persons with type 2 diabetes (T2D) are at risk for cognitive impairment and brain atrophy. The ACCORD Memory in Diabetes (MIND) Study investigated whether persons randomized to an intensive glycaemic therapeutic strategy targeting HbA1c to <6% had better cognitive function and a larger brain volume at 40 months than persons randomized to a standard strategy targeting HbA1c to 7%–7.9%.
ACCORD MIND was a double 2×2 factorial parallel group randomised trial conducted in 52 clinical sites in North America. Participants [age 55 – <80 years] with T2D, high HbA1c concentrations (>7.5%), and at high risk for cardiovascular events were randomised to treatment groups using a centralized web-based system. Clinic staff and participants were not blinded to treatment arm. The cognitive primary outcome, the Digit Symbol Substitution Test (DSST) score, was assessed at baseline, 20 and 40 months. Total brain volume (TBV), the primary brain structure outcome, was assessed with MRI at baseline and 40 months in a sub-set of 632 participants. All participants with follow-up data were included in the primary analyses. In February, 2008, increased mortality risk led to the termination of the intensive therapy and transition of those participants to standard glycaemic treatment.
Randomised patients (n=2977; mean age 62.3 years) were consecutively enrolled; the final analysis included 1358 intensive and 1416 standard arm participants with a 20 or 40 month DSST score. Of the 614 with a baseline MRI, 230 intensive and 273 standard therapy participants were included in the analysis. There was no treatment difference in the DSST score. The intensive group had a greater TBV than the standard group (difference, 4.62; 95% CI 2.0 to7.3 cm3; p=0.0007).
Although significant differences in TBV favored the intensive therapy, cognitive outcomes were not different. Combined with the unfavorable effects on other ACCORD outcomes, MIND findings do not support using intensive therapy to reduce the adverse effects of diabetes on the brain in patients similar to MIND participants. (ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00182910).
Epigenetic studies are commonly conducted on DNA from tissue samples. However, tissues are ensembles of cells that may each have their own epigenetic profile, and therefore inter-individual cellular heterogeneity may compromise these studies. Here, we explore the potential for such confounding on DNA methylation measurement outcomes when using DNA from whole blood. DNA methylation was measured using pyrosequencing-based methodology in whole blood (n = 50–179) and in two white blood cell fractions (n = 20), isolated using density gradient centrifugation, in four CGIs (CpG Islands) located in genes HHEX (10 CpG sites assayed), KCNJ11 (8 CpGs), KCNQ1 (4 CpGs) and PM20D1 (7 CpGs). Cellular heterogeneity (variation in proportional white blood cell counts of neutrophils, lymphocytes, monocytes, eosinophils and basophils, counted by an automated cell counter) explained up to 40% (p<0.0001) of the inter-individual variation in whole blood DNA methylation levels in the HHEX CGI, but not a significant proportion of the variation in the other three CGIs tested. DNA methylation levels in the two cell fractions, polymorphonuclear and mononuclear cells, differed significantly in the HHEX CGI; specifically the average absolute difference ranged between 3.4–15.7 percentage points per CpG site. In the other three CGIs tested, methylation levels in the two fractions did not differ significantly, and/or the difference was more moderate. In the examined CGIs, methylation levels were highly correlated between cell fractions. In summary, our analysis detects region-specific differential DNA methylation between white blood cell subtypes, which can confound the outcome of whole blood DNA methylation measurements. Finally, by demonstrating the high correlation between methylation levels in cell fractions, our results suggest a possibility to use a proportional number of a single white blood cell type to correct for this confounding effect in analyses.
An increasing number of studies suggest a vascular contribution to Alzheimer’s disease [AD]. One major question these findings raise is whether vascular disease enhances the formation of AD-like lesions, or whether vascular disease just adds to clinical severity. We examined this question in a fully characterized autopsy sample based on the Honolulu Asia Aging Study. We found that AD markers of neurodegeneration [amyloid plaques, cerebral amyloid angiopathy and neurofibrillary tangles] were no more prevalent in those with neuropathologically defined vascular lesions compared to those without lesions. Our study suggests the burden of vascular and AD type lesions are independent of each other, and are consistent with an additive effect of the two types of lesions on cognitive impairment.
Cerebral microbleeds (CMB) are increasingly recognized neuroimaging findings, occurring with cerebrovascular disease, dementia, and normal aging. Recent years have seen substantial progress, particularly in developing newer MRI methodologies for CMB detection and applying them to population-based elderly samples. This review focuses on these recent developments and their impact on two major questions: how CMB are detected, and how they should be interpreted. There is now ample evidence that prevalence and number of detected CMB varies with MRI characteristics such as pulse sequence, sequence parameters, spatial resolution, magnetic field strength, and post-processing, underlining the importance of MRI technique in interpreting studies. Recent investigations using sensitive techniques find the prevalence of CMB detected in community-dwelling elderly to be surprisingly high. We propose procedural guidelines for identifying CMB and suggest possible future approaches for elucidating the role of these common lesions as markers for, and potential contributors to, small vessel brain disease.
Kidney disease is associated with cognitive impairment in studies of nondiabetic adults. We examined the cross-sectional relation between three measures of renal function and performance on four measures of cognitive function in the Action to Control Cardiovascular Risk in Diabetes Memory in Diabetes (ACCORD-MIND) study.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS
The relationships among estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) <60 mL/min/1.73 m2 (n = 2,968), albumin/creatinine ratio (ACR) ≥30 μg/mg (n = 2,957), and cystatin C level >1.0 mg/L (n = 532) with tertile of performance on the Mini-Mental State Examination, Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test (RAVLT), Digit Symbol Substitution Test (DSST), and Stroop Test of executive function were measured.
In adjusted logistic regression models, ACR ≥30 μg/mg was associated with performance in the lowest tertile, compared with the highest two tertiles, on the RAVLT (odds ratio 1.30, 95% CI 1.09–1.56, P = 0.006), equivalent to 3.6 years of aging, and on the DSST (1.47, 1.20–1.80, P = 0.001), equivalent to 3.7 years of aging. Cystatin C >1.0 mg/L was borderline associated with the lowest tertile on the DSST (1.81, 0.93–3.55, P = 0.08) and Stroop (1.78, 0.97–3.23, P = 0.06) in adjusted models. eGFR was not associated with any measure of cognitive performance.
In diabetic people with HbA1c >7.5% at high risk for cardiovascular disease, decreased cognitive function was associated with kidney disease as measured by ACR, a measure of microvascular endothelial pathology, and cystatin C, a marker of eGFR.
In a population-based genome-wide analysis including 5122 migraineurs and 18,108 non-migraineurs, rs2651899 (PRDM16), rs10166942 (TRMP8), and rs11172113 (LRP1) were among the top associations (p<5×10−6) with migraine. All three SNPs were significant in meta-analysis among replication cohorts and met genome-wide significance (p<4.3×10−9) in meta-analysis combining discovery and replication cohorts. Rs2651899 and rs10166942 associated with migraine compared to non-migraine headache; none of the three SNPs specifically associated with migraine subtypes or features.
To describe the prevalence and signs of early and late age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in an old cohort.
Population based cohort study
We included 5,272 persons 66 years and older, randomly sampled from the Reykjavik area.
Fundus images were taken through dilated pupils using a 45°digital camera and were graded for drusen size, type, area, increased retinal pigment, retinal pigment epithelial depigmentation, neovascular lesions and geographic atrophy using the modified Wisconsin Age-Related Maculopathy Grading System.
Main outcome measure
Age-related macular degenerationin an old cohort.
Mean age of participants was 76 years. The prevalence of early AMD was 12.4% (95% confidence interval [CI] 11.0–13.9) for those 66–74 year old and 36% (95% CI 30.9–41.1) for those 85 years and older. The prevalence of exudative AMD was 3.3% (95% CI 2.8–3.8) and for pure geographic atrophy 2.4% (95% CI 2.0–2.8). The highest prevalence for late AMD was among those 85 years and older 11.4% (95% CI 8.2–14.5) for exudative AMD and 7.6% (95% CI 4.8–10.4) for pure geographic atrophy.
Persons 85 years and older have 10-fold higher prevalence of late AMD than those 70–74 years old. The high prevalence of late AMD in the oldest age-group and expected increase of old people in the western world in coming years call for improved preventive measures and novel treatments.
Age-related macular degeneration; exudative AMD; geographic atrophy
We previously conducted genome-wide association meta-analysis (GWA) of systolic blood pressure (SBP), diastolic blood pressure (DBP) and hypertension in 29,136 people from six cohort studies in the CHARGE Consortium. Here we examine associations of these traits with 30 gene regions encoding known anti-hypertensive drug targets. We find nominal evidence of association of ADRB1, ADRB2, AGT, CACNA1A, CACNA1C, and SLC12A3 polymorphisms with one or more BP traits in the CHARGE GWA meta-analysis. We attempted replication of the top meta-analysis SNPs for these genes in the Global BPgen Consortium (GBPG, n=34,433) and the Women’s Genome Health Study (WGHS, n=23,019), and found significant results for rs1801253 in ADRB1 (Arg389Gly), with the Gly allele associated with a lower mean SBP (beta −0.57 (mmHg), se 0.09, meta-analysis P=4.7×10−10), DBP (beta −0.36, se 0.06, meta-analysis P=9.5×10−10) and prevalence of hypertension (beta −0.06, se 0.02, meta-analysis P=3.3×10−4). Variation in AGT (rs2004776) was associated with SBP (beta 0.42, se 0.09, meta-analysis P=3.8×10−6), as well as DBP (P=5.0×10−8) and hypertension (P=3.7×10−7). A polymorphism in ACE (rs4305) showed modest replication of association with increased hypertension (beta 0.06, se 0.01, meta-analysis P=3.0×10−5). Two loci, ADRB1 and AGT, contain SNPs that reached a genome-wide significance threshold in meta-analysis for the first time. Our findings suggest that these genes warrant further studies of their genetic effects on BP, including pharmacogenetic interactions.
drug target; genome-wide; SNP; hypertension; blood pressure
Hippocampal changes may be a useful biomarker for Alzheimer’s disease if they are specific to dementia sub-type. We compare hippocampal volume and shape in population-based incident cases of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia (VaD).
Participants are Japanese-American men from the Honolulu Asia Aging Study. The following analysis is based on a sub-group of men with mild incident Alzheimer’s disease (n=24: age=82.5±4.6) or incident VaD (n=14: age=80.5±4.5). To estimate hippocampal volume, one reader, blinded to dementia diagnosis, manually outlined the left and right formation of the hippocampus using published criteria. We used 3-D mapping methods developed at the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging (LONI) to compare regional variation in hippocampal width between dementia groups.
Hippocampal volume was about 5% smaller in the Alzheimer’s disease group compared to the VaD group, but the difference was not significant. Hippocampal shape differed between the two case groups for the left (p<0.04) but not right (p<0.21) hippocampus. The specific region of the hippocampus that most consistently differed between the Alzheimer’s disease and VaD cases was in the lateral portion of the left hippocampus. Our interpretation of this region is that it intersects the CA1 sub-region to a great extent but also includes the dentate gyrus (and hilar region) and subiculum.
As indicated by shape analysis, there are some differences in atrophy localisation between the Alzheimer’s disease and VaD cases, despite the finding that volume of the hippocampi did not differ. These findings suggest hippocampal atrophy in Alzheimer’s disease may be more focal than in VaD.
Background and Purpose
Several cardiovascular risk factors are associated with cognitive disorders in older persons. Little is known about the association of the burden of coronary atherosclerosis with brain structure and function.
Cross-sectional analysis of data from the AGES Reykjavik Study cohort of men and women born 1907-35. Coronary artery calcification (CAC), a marker of atherosclerotic burden was measured with computed tomography. Memory, speed of processing, and executive function composites were calculated from a cognitive test battery. Dementia was assessed in a multi-step procedure and diagnosed according to international guidelines. Quantitative data on total intracranial and tissue volumes [total, Gray (GMV), White (WMV), and White Matter Lesions (WMLV)], cerebral infarcts and cerebral microbleeds (CMB) were obtained with brain MRI. The association of CAC with dementia (n=165 cases) and cognitive function in non-demented subjects (n=4085), and separately with MRI outcomes, was examined in multivariate models adjusting for demographic and vascular risk factors. Analyses tested whether brain structure mediated the associations of CAC to cognitive function.
Subjects with higher CAC were more likely to have dementia and lower cognitive scores, more likely to have lower WMV, GMV and total brain tissue, and more cerebral infarcts, CMB and WMLV. The relations of cognitive performance and dementia to CAC were significantly attenuated when the models were adjusted for brain lesions and volumes.
In a population-based sample increasing atherosclerotic load, assessed by CAC, is associated with poorer cognitive performance and dementia, and these relations are mediated by evidence of brain pathology.
Atherosclerosis; Coronary Artery Disease; Calcinosis/radiography; Dementia; Cognitive function
Constipation is associated with future risk of Parkinson’s disease (PD) and with incidental Lewy bodies (LB) in the locus ceruleus or substantia nigra (SN). Our purpose is to examine the independent association between bowel movement frequency in late-life and post mortem SN neuron density. Bowel movement frequency was assessed in the Honolulu-Asia Aging Study from 1991 to 1993 in 414 men aged 71 to 93 years with later postmortem evaluations. Brains were examined for LB in the SN and locus ceruleus and neurons were counted in four quadrants from a transverse section of SN. In non-smokers, neuron densities (counts/mm2) for men with >1, 1, and <1 bowel movement daily were 18.5, 18.8, 10.1 (p<0.001) for dorsomedial; 15.3, 16.4, 10.2 (p<0.03) for ventromedial; and 18.6, 18.3, 10.9 (p=0.011) for ventrolateral quadrants. Relationships were not significant in the dorsolateral quadrant or in any quadrant among smokers. After adjustment for age, time to death, coffee drinking, tricep skinfold thickness, excessive daytime sleepiness, cognitive function, PD, and incidental LB, density ratios in nonsmokers with 1 or more bowel movement(s) daily were significantly higher compared to those with <1 daily. Constipation is associated with low SN neuron density independent of the presence of LB.
Parkinson’s disease; constipation; Lewy body; substantia nigra; neuron density
To evaluate midlife risk factors of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) in late life in a population-based study of older persons.
A cohort of 2251 persons, aged 65-96, participated in AGES-Reykjavik in 2002-2004; all attended the Reykjavik Study 26 years earlier, at the mean age of 50. Based on glucometabolic status in 2002-2004 the participants are divided into a normoglycemic control group (n=1695), an impaired fasting glucose (IFG) group (n=313) and T2DM group (n=243). Change in risk parameters from midlife is evaluated in these three groups.
Since examined earlier 14.3% of men and 8.2% of women developed T2DM. A family history of diabetes was reported in 39.5% of T2DM compared to 19.3% in both IFG and normoglycemics. The T2DM and IFG groups currently have higher levels of fasting triglycerides, greater BMI and higher systolic blood pressure than normoglycemics and this difference was already apparent in midlife. In late life, two or more metabolic syndrome criteria are present in 60% of the T2DM groups compared to 25% in normoglycemic groups. T2DM with impaired cardiovascular health is more marked in women than men when compared with controls.
Family history and higher levels of BMI, TG and systolic blood pressure in midlife are associated with the development of T2DM in late life, suggesting risk can be evaluated long before onset. A continued rise in risk factors throughout life allows a scope for more aggressive measures in preventing or delaying development of T2DM and its effect on cardiovascular health.
Cohort study; epidemiology; Type 2 diabetes; older persons; long term risk evaluation of T2DM
A small MRI study showed increased iron depositions in the periaqueductal grey matter in migraineurs, suggestive of a disturbed central antinociceptive neuronal network.
With 1.5T MRI, we assessed iron concentrations in seven deep brain nuclei in a large population-based cohort. We compared T2 values between migraineurs (n=138) and controls (n=75), with multivariate regression analysis. Analyses were conducted in age strata (<50, n=112; ≥50) because iron measures are increasingly influenced by non-iron related factors in the older group.
Overall, migraineurs and controls did not differ, nor did migraineurs with vs. without aura. In the younger migraineurs compared to controls, T2-values were lower in the putamen (p=0.02), globus pallidus (p=0.03) and red nucleus (p=0.03). Similarly, in these younger migraineurs, controlling for age, those with longer migraine-history had lower T2 values in the putamen (p=0.01), caudate (p=0.04) and red nucleus (p=0.001).
Repeated migraine attacks are associated with increased iron concentration / accumulation in multiple deep nuclei that are involved in central pain processing and migraine pathophysiology. It remains unclear whether iron accumulation in the antinociceptive network has a causative role in the development of (chronic) migraine headache.
Migraine; Magnetic Resonance Imaging; Iron accumulation; Pain processing
Background & Purpose
Cerebral infarcts increase the risk for cognitive impairment. The relevance of location and number of infarcts with respect to cognitive function is less clear.
We studied the cross-sectional association between number and location of infarcts and cognitive performance in 4030 non-demented participants of the Age Gene/Environment Susceptibility-Reykjavik Study. Composite scores for memory (MEM), processing speed (SP) and executive function (EF) were created from a neuropsychological battery. Subcortical, cortical, and cerebellar infarcts were identified on brain MRI. We performed linear-regression analyses adjusted for demographic and vascular risk factors, depression, white matter lesions, and atrophy.
Compared to participants with no infarcts, those with infarcts in multiple locations (n=287, 7%) had slower SP (β=-0.19, p<.001) and poorer MEM (β=-0.16, p<.001) and EF (β=-0.12, p=.003). Compared to no infarcts, the presence of either subcortical infarcts only (n=275) (β=-0.12, p=.016) or cortical infarcts only (n=215) (β=-0.17, p=.001) was associated with poorer MEM performance. Compared to no infarcts, a combination of cortical and subcortical infarcts (n=45) was associated with slower SP (β=-0.38, p<.001) and poorer EF (β=-0.22, p=.02), while a combination of cerebellar and subcortical infarcts (n=89) was associated with slower SP (β=-0.15, p=.04). Infarcts in all three locations was associated with slower SP (β=-0.33, p=.002).
Having infarcts in more than one location is associated with poor performance in memory, processing speed, and executive function, independent of cardiovascular comorbidities, white matter lesions and brain atrophy, suggesting that both the number and the distribution of infarcts jointly contribute to cognitive impairment.
Left ventricular (LV) diastolic dysfunction has been associated with impaired glucometabolic status. However, studies of older subjects are lacking. We examined associations between echocardiographic indices of LV diastolic function and LV mass index (LVMI) and glucometabolic status among middle-aged and elderly subjects free from heart disease, hypothesizing that the associations would be comparative to younger cohorts.
We examined the AGES-RS (Iceland; n=607, 76±6 years) and MPP-RES cohorts (Sweden; n=1519, 67±6 years), evaluating associations with multivariable regression analysis.
In AGES-RS, LVMI was positively correlated with HbA1c (p=0.001). Otherwise, echocardiographic variables were not associated with glucometabolic status. In MPP-RES, LVMI increased with increasing glucometabolic disturbance among both older (70–80 years) and middle-aged (57–69 years) subjects. Among older subjects, HbA1c was positively correlated with two variables reflecting LV diastolic function: late transmitral peak flow velocity (A) (p=0.001) and early transmitral peak flow velocity (E)/early diastolic peak tissue velocity (Em) (p=0.046). In middle-aged MPP-RES subjects, increasing glucometabolic disturbance was correlated with increasing late diastolic peak tissue velocity (Am) (p=0.002) and, after age-adjustment, with increasing A (p=0.001) and decreasing Em/Am (p=0.009). With age-adjustment, Am and A were positively correlated with fasting glucose and HbA1c.
Contrary to our hypothesis, in two independent cohorts of older individuals, associations between glucometabolic status and LV diastolic function were generally weak. This contrasts with previous reports, as well as with observations among middle-aged subjects in the present study. Changes in LV diastolic function may be more age-related than associated with glucose metabolism in older subjects.
To estimate the potential benefits towards preventing late-life dementia, of lowering systolic blood pressure [SBP] we estimated the population attributable risk (PAR) of elevated SBP on dementia. Analyses are based on the cohort of 8006 Japanese American men (b. 1900 – 1919) followed since 1965 as a part of the Honolulu Heart Program, continued as the Honolulu Asia Aging Study. Mid-life cardiovascular risk factors and late-life brain function are well described. We estimated the PAR of dementia cases attributed to mid-life SBP, grouped by JCN-7 criteria [<120, 120 – < 140, and ≥ 140 mmHG], taking into account treatment history, confounding factors, and competitive risk for death. The analysis is based on 7878 subjects, including 491 cases of dementia, with a mean interval of 25 years between measurement of BP and dementia diagnosis. Compared to those with SBP <120 mmHG, untreated and <50 years at baseline, 17.7% (95% CI 4.6% – 29.1%) of the cases are attributable to prehypertensive levels (SBP 120 – <140 mmHG) of SBP, translating into 11 excess cases per 1000. Among those who did not report taking anti-hypertensive medication in mid-life, 27% [95%CI 8.9%, 42.1%] of dementia cases can be attributed to systolic BP >120 mmHG, translating into 17 excess cases per 1000. Although PAR estimates for population sub –groups may differ by relative risk for dementia or prevalence of elevated levels of BP, these data suggest reducing mid-life systolic BP is an effective prevention strategy to reduce risk for late-life dementia.
Dementia; population attributable risk; hypertension; older persons; cohort study; epidemiology
Previous studies suggested that migraine is a risk factor for brain lesions, but methodological issues hampered drawing definite conclusions. Therefore, we initiated the MRI “CAMERA” study.
We summarize our previously published results. A total of 295 migraineurs and 140 controls were randomly selected from a previously diagnosed population-based sample (n=6039), who underwent an interview, physical examination, and a brain MRI-scan.
Migraineurs, notably those with aura, had higher prevalence of subclinical infarcts in the posterior circulation (OR=13.7; 95%CI 1.7–112). Female migraineurs were at independent increased risk of white matter lesions (WML; OR=2.1; 95%CI 1.0–4.1), and migraineurs had a higher prevalence of brainstem hyperintense lesions (4.4% vs. 0.7%, p=0.04). We observed a higher lifetime prevalence of (frequent) syncope and orthostatic insufficiency in migraineurs; future research needs to clarify whether autonomic nervous system dysfunction could explain (part of) the increased risk of WMLs in female migraineurs. Finally, in migraineurs aged <50, compared to controls, we found evidence of increased iron concentration in putamen (p=0.02), globus pallidus (p=0.03) and red nucleus (p=0.03). Higher risks in those with higher attack frequency or longer disease duration were found consistent with a causal relationship between migraine and lesions.
This summary of our population-based data illustrates that migraine is associated with a significantly increased risk of brain lesions. Longitudinal studies are needed to assess whether these lesions are progressive and have relevant (long-term) functional correlates.
Dementia, Alzheimer’s disease in particular, is one of the major causes of disability and decreased quality of life among the elderly and a leading obstacle to successful aging. Given the profound impact on public health, much research has focused on the age-specific risk of developing dementia and the impact on survival. Early work has discussed various methods of estimating age-specific incidence of dementia, among which the illness-death model is popular for modeling disease progression. In this article we use multiple imputation to fit multi-state models for survival data with interval censoring and left truncation. This approach allows semi-Markov models in which survival after dementia may depend on onset age. Such models can be used to estimate the cumulative risk of developing dementia in the presence of the competing risk of dementia-free death. Simulations are carried out to examine the performance of the proposed method. We analyze data from the Honolulu Asia Aging Study to estimate the age-specific and cumulative risks of dementia and to examine the effect of major risk factors on dementia onset and death.
Competing risk; Dementia; Illness-death model; Interval censoring; Multiple imputation
There are few studies on the long-term associations of physical activity (PA) to cognition. Here, we examine the association of midlife PA to late-life cognitive function and dementia.
The sample consisted of a population-based cohort of men and women (born in 1907–1935) participating in the Age Gene/Environment Susceptibility—Reykjavik Study. The interval between the midlife ascertainment of PA and late-life cognitive function was 26 years. Composite scores of speed of processing, memory, and executive function were assessed with a battery of neuropsychological tests, and dementia was diagnosed according to international guidelines. There were 4,761 nondemented participants and 184 (3.7%) with a diagnosis of dementia, with complete data for the analysis.
Among the participants, no midlife PA was reported by 68.8%, ≤5 hours PA by 26.5%, and >5 hours PA by 4.5%. Excluding participants with dementia compared with the no PA group, both PA groups had significantly faster speed of processing (≤5 hours, β = .22; >5 hours, β = .32, p trend < .0001), better memory (≤5 hours, β = .15; >5 hours, β = .18, p trend < .0001), and executive function (≤5 hours, β = .09; >5 hours, β = .18, p trend< .0001), after controlling for demographic and cardiovascular factors. The ≤5 hours PA group was significantly less likely to have dementia in late life (odds ratio: 0.6, 95% confidence interval: 0.40–0.88) after adjusting for confounders.
Midlife PA may contribute to maintenance of cognitive function and may reduce or delay the risk of late-life dementia.
Physical activity; Cognitive function; Longitudinal study
Cerebral small vessel disease-related brain lesions such as white matter lesions and lacunes are common findings of magnetic resonance imaging in the elderly. These lesions are thought to be major contributors to disability in old age, and risk factors that include age and hypertension have been established. The radiological, histopathologic and clinical phenotypes of age-related cerebral small vessel disease remarkably resemble autosomal dominant arteriopathy with subcortical infarcts and leucoencephalopathy, which is caused by mutations in NOTCH3. We hypothesized that genetic variations in NOTCH3 also play a role in age-related cerebral small vessel disease. We directly sequenced all 33 exons, the promoter and 3′-untranslated region of NOTCH3 in 195 participants with either coalescent white matter lesions or lacunes and compared the results to 82 randomly selected participants with no focal changes on magnetic resonance images in the Austrian Stroke Prevention Study. We detected nine common and 33 rare single nucleotide polymorphisms, of which 20 were novel. All common single nucleotide polymorphisms were genotyped in the entire cohort (n = 888), and four of them, rs1043994, rs10404382, rs10423702 and rs1043997, were associated significantly with both the presence and progression of white matter lesions. The association was confined to hypertensives, a result which we replicated in the Cohorts for Heart and Ageing Research in Genomic Epidemiology Consortium on an independent sample of 4773 stroke-free hypertensive elderly individuals of European descent (P = 0.04). The 33 rare single nucleotide polymorphisms were scattered over the NOTCH3 gene with three being located in the promoter region, 24 in exons (18 non-synonymous), three in introns and three in the 3′-untranslated region. None of the single nucleotide polymorphisms affected a cysteine residue. Sorting Intolerant From Tolerant, PolyPhen2 analyses and protein structure simulation consistently predicted six of the non-synonymous single nucleotide polymorphisms (H170R, P496L, V1183M, L1518M, D1823N and V1952M) to be functional, with four being exclusively or mainly detected in subjects with severe white matter lesions. In four individuals with rare non-synonymous single nucleotide polymorphisms, we noted anterior temporal lobe hyperintensity, hyperintensity in the external capsule, lacunar infarcts or subcortical lacunar lesions. None of the observed abnormalities were specific to cerebral autosomal dominant arteriopathy with subcortical infarcts and leucoencephalopathy. This is the first comprehensive study investigating (i) the frequency of NOTCH3 variations in community-dwelling elderly and (ii) their effect on cerebral small vessel disease related magnetic resonance imaging phenotypes. We show that the NOTCH3 gene is highly variable with both common and rare single nucleotide polymorphisms spreading across the gene, and that common variants at the NOTCH3 gene increase the risk of age-related white matter lesions in hypertensives. Additional investigations are required to explore the biological mechanisms underlying the observed association.
NOTCH3; cerebral small vessel disease; genetics; MRI; ageing