A large number of longitudinal studies of population-based ageing cohorts are in progress internationally, but the insights from these studies into the risk and protective factors for cognitive ageing and conditions like mild cognitive impairment and dementia have been inconsistent. Some of the problems confounding this research can be reduced by harmonising and pooling data across studies. COSMIC (Cohort Studies of Memory in an International Consortium) aims to harmonise data from international cohort studies of cognitive ageing, in order to better understand the determinants of cognitive ageing and neurocognitive disorders.
Longitudinal studies of cognitive ageing and dementia with at least 500 individuals aged 60 years or over are eligible and invited to be members of COSMIC. There are currently 17 member studies, from regions that include Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America. A Research Steering Committee has been established, two meetings of study leaders held, and a website developed. The initial attempts at harmonising key variables like neuropsychological test scores are in progress.
The challenges of international consortia like COSMIC include efficient communication among members, extended use of resources, and data harmonisation. Successful harmonisation will facilitate projects investigating rates of cognitive decline, risk and protective factors for mild cognitive impairment, and biomarkers of mild cognitive impairment and dementia. Extended implications of COSMIC could include standardised ways of collecting and reporting data, and a rich cognitive ageing database being made available to other researchers. COSMIC could potentially transform our understanding of the epidemiology of cognitive ageing, and have a world-wide impact on promoting successful ageing.
Cohort studies; Cognitive ageing; Data harmonisation; Dementia; International consortium; Mild cognitive impairment
Background and Purpose
Cerebral microbleeds (CMBs) due to cerebral amyloid angiopathy generally occur in lobar regions, while those due to hypertensive vasculopathy are deep. Inflammation may be an underlying mechanism for CMB, with varying associations according to CMB location. Lipoprotein phospholipase-A2 (Lp-PLA2) is a circulating enzyme marker of vascular inflammation associated with risk of ischemic stroke and dementia. We hypothesized that higher Lp-PLA2 levels would be related to higher prevalence of CMBs, with possible regional specificity.
Framingham Offspring participants aged ≥65 years with available Lp-PLA2 measures and brain MRI were included. Logistic regression models were used to relate Lp-PLA2 activity and mass to presence of CMBs, adjusted for age, sex, medication use (aspirin, anticoagulants, and statins), systolic blood pressure, APOE, current smoking, and diabetes.
819 participants (mean age 73 years; 53% women) were included; 106 (13%) had CMBs; 82 (10%) lobar and 27 (3%) deep. We did not observe significant associations of CMB and LpPLA2 measures in multivariable adjusted analyses. However, there was a significant interaction between APOE genotype and Lp-PLA2 activity in their relation to presence of deep CMBs (p-interaction=0.01). Among persons with APOE ε3/ε3, the OR for deep CMB was 0.95 [0.59–1.53; p=0.83], while among those with at least one ε2 or ε4 allele, OR=3.46 [1.43–8.36; p=0.006].
In our community-based sample of older adults, there was no significant association of Lp-PLA2 with total or lobar CMBs. The association of higher levels of Lp-PLA2 activity with deep CMBs among those with at least one APOE ε2 or ε4 allele merits replication.
Given the importance of identifying dementia prodromes for future treatment efforts, we examined two methods of diagnosing mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and determined whether empirically-derived MCI subtypes of these diagnostic methods were consistent with one another as well as with conventional MCI subtypes (i.e., amnestic, non-amnestic, single-domain, multi-domain). Participants were diagnosed with MCI using either conventional Petersen/Winblad criteria (n = 134; >1.5 SDs below normal on one test within a cognitive domain) or comprehensive neuropsychological criteria developed by Jak et al. (2009) (n = 80; >1 SD below normal on two tests within a domain), and the resulting samples were examined via hierarchical cluster and discriminant function analyses. Results showed that neuropsychological profiles varied depending on the criteria used to define MCI. Both criteria revealed an Amnestic subtype, consistent with prodromal Alzheimer’s disease (AD), and a Mixed subtype that may capture individuals in advanced stages of MCI. The comprehensive criteria uniquely yielded Dysexecutive and Visuospatial subtypes, whereas the conventional criteria produced a subtype that performed within normal limits, suggesting its susceptibility to false positive diagnostic errors. Whether these empirically-derived MCI subtypes correspond to dissociable neuropathologic substrates and represent reliable prodromes of dementia will require additional follow-up.
Mild cognitive impairment; Amnestic MCI; Non-amnestic MCI; Dementia; Cluster analysis; Neuropsychology
While the Clock Drawing Test (CDT) is a popular tool used to assess cognitive function, limited normative data on CDT performance exists. The objective of the current study was to provide normative data on an expanded version of previous CDT scoring protocols from a large community-based sample of middle to older adults (aged 43 to 91) from the Framingham Heart Study.
The CDT was administered to 1476 Framingham Heart Study Offspring Cohort participants using a scoring protocol that assigned error scores to drawn features. Total error scores were computed, as well as for subscales pertaining to outline, numeral placement, time-setting, center, and “other.”
Higher levels of education were significantly associated with fewer errors for time-setting (Command: p<.001; Copy: p=.003), numerals (Command: p<.001) and “other” (Command: p<.001) subscales. Older age was significantly associated with more errors for time-setting (Command: p<.001; Copy: p=.003), numeral (Command: p<.001) and “other” (Command: p<.001) subscales. Significant differences were also found between education groups on the Command condition for all but the oldest age group (75+).
Results provide normative data on CDT performance within a community-based cohort. Errors appear to be more prevalent in older compared with younger individuals, and may be less prevalent in individuals who completed at least some college compared with those who did not. Future studies are needed to determine whether this expanded scoring system allows detection of preclinical symptoms of future risk for dementia.
Clock Drawing Test; Normal aging; Scoring methods; Neuropsychological tests; Dementia; Cognitive screening
Several biomarkers have been individually associated with vascular brain injury but no prior study has explored the simultaneous association of a biologically plausible panel of biomarkers with the incidence of stroke/TIA, and the prevalence of subclinical brain injury.
Methods and Results
In 3127 stroke-free Framingham Offspring (59±10 yrs, 54%F), we related a panel of 8 biomarkers assessing inflammation(C-reactive protein[CRP]), hemostasis(D-dimer and plasminogen activator inhibitor-1), neurohormonal activity(aldosterone-to renin ratio, B-type natriuretic peptide[BNP] and N-terminal pro-atrial natriuretic peptides) and endothelial function (homocysteine and urinary albumin/creatinine ratio[UACR]) measured at the 6th examination(1995–98) to risk of incident stroke/TIA. In a subset of 1901 participants with available brain MRI (1999–2005), we further related these biomarkers to total cerebral brain volume (TCBV), covert brain infarcts (CBI), and large white matter hyperintensity volume(LWMHV).
During a median follow-up of 9.2 years, 130 participants experienced incident stroke/TIA. In multivariable analyses adjusted for stroke risk factors, the biomarker panel was associated with incident stroke/TIA and with TCBV (p<0.05 for both), but not with CBI or LWMHV (p >0.05). In backwards elimination analyses higher log-BNP (hazards ratio [HR] 1.39/SD, p=0.002) and log-UACR (HR1.31/SD, p=0.004) were associated with increased risk of stroke/TIA and improved risk prediction over using the Framingham stroke risk profile alone; using <5%, 5–15% or >15% 10-year risk categories the net reclassification index was 0.109;p=0.037). Higher CRP (β=−0.21/SD,p=0.008), D-dimer(β==−0.18/SD,p=0.041), tHcy(β=−0.21/SD,p=0.005), and UACR(β=−0.15/SD,p=0.042) were associated with lower TCBV.
In a middle-aged community sample, we identified multiple biomarkers that were associated with clinical and subclinical vascular brain injury and could improve risk stratification.
biomarkers; epidemiology; magnetic resonance imaging; risk stratification; stroke prevention
During aging, intracranial volume remains unchanged and represents maximally attained brain size, while various interacting biological phenomena lead to brain volume loss. Consequently, intracranial volume and brain volume in late life reflect different genetic influences. Our genome-wide association study in 8,175 community-dwelling elderly did not reveal any genome-wide significant associations (p<5*10−8) for brain volume. In contrast, intracranial volume was significantly associated with two loci: rs4273712 (p=3.4*10−11), a known height locus on chromosome 6q22, and rs9915547, tagging the inversion on chromosome 17q21 (p=1.5*10−12). We replicated the associations of these loci with intracranial volume in a separate sample of 1,752 older persons (p=1.1*10−3 for 6q22 and p=1.2*10−3 for 17q21). Furthermore, we also found suggestive associations of the 17q21 locus with head circumference in 10,768 children (mean age 14.5 months). Our data identify two loci associated with head size, with the inversion on 17q21 also likely involved in attaining maximal brain size.
The Framingham Heart Study has enrolled 3 generations of participants, the Original cohort (Gen 1) enrolled in 1948, the Offspring cohort (Gen 2) enrolled in 1971 and the Third Generation enrolled in 2002. Participants have been undergoing prospective surveillance for incident stroke and dementia and embedded within this cohort is the voluntary Framingham Brain Donation Program that was begun in 1997. Participants who register to become brain donors have had one or more brain MR and cognitive test batteries administered. In addition, they undergo neurological evaluation as indicated, record review and post-mortem next-of-kin interview to determine the presence, type and extent of antemortem, clinical neurological diagnoses and to assign a retrospective Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR) Scale score. Between 1997 and 2009 there were 1806 deaths, 186 of which were among registered brain donors and of these 139 brains could be examined. 58% were deemed cognitively normal at death. We present results for 3 projects; the first was to examine the sensitivity and specificity of our clinical diagnosis against the gold standard of pathological AD in 59 persons who underwent detailed cognitive assessment in the two years prior to death; we observed a 77.3% sensitivity (2 persons with AD were diagnosed clinically as Lewy body dementia) and a 91.9% specificity. The second examined the correlation of regional Alzheimer-type pathology to cognitive status at death among 34 persons who were over the age of 75 and without any significant vascular or alternative neurodegenerative pathology and found that neurofibrillary tangle counts distinguished between persons who were controls, had mild cognitive impairment, mild or moderate dementia; tangles in dorsolateral frontal cortex best distinguished MCI and controls. The third project examined the extent and severity of vascular pathology, again in a larger sample of varying cognitive abilities and in a subsample of persons with either amnestic or non-amnestic MCI. We observed that an aggregate ischemic injury score was significantly higher in persons with a CDR score of 0.5 than in normal controls.
Brain; autopsy; epidemiology; alzheimer's disease; brain ischemia
To investigate the contribution of biomarkers of glucose homeostasis (adiponectin, glucose, glycated albumin, and insulin levels) and inflammation (high-sensitivity C-reactive protein and lipoprotein-associated phospholipase A2 levels) to the risk of developing Alzheimer disease (AD) and all-cause dementia.
Prospective cohort study.
Dementia-free Framingham Heart Study participants had sera measured for these biomarkers at the 19th biennial examination (1985–1988) and were followed up prospectively for the development of AD and all-cause dementia.
Eight hundred forty (541 women, median age of 76 years) subjects participated in the study.
Main Outcome Measures
We used sex-pooled and sex-specific multivariable Cox proportional hazards models adjusted for age, education, body mass index, recent change in weight, APOE ε4 allele status, and plasma docosahexaenoic acid levels to determine association of these biomarkers with the development of all-cause dementia and AD.
Over a mean follow-up period of 13 years, 159 persons developed dementia (including 125 with AD). After adjustment for other risk factors, only adiponectin in women was associated with an increased risk of all-cause dementia (hazard ratio [HR], 1.29; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.00–1.66; P=.054) and AD (HR, 1.33; 95% CI, 1.00–1.76; P=.050) per 1-SD increase in adiponectin level. Women with baseline adiponectin values more than the median had a higher risk of all-cause dementia (HR, 1.63; 95% CI, 1.03–2.56; P=.04) and AD (HR, 1.87; 95% CI, 1.13–3.10; P=.01) as compared with those with values less than the median.
In women, increased plasma adiponectin levels are an independent risk factor for the development of both all-cause dementia and AD.
Previous studies have identified effects of age and vascular risk factors on brain injury in elderly individuals. We aimed to establish whether the effects of high blood pressure in the brain are evident as early as the fifth decade of life.
In an investigation of the third generation of the Framingham Heart Study, we approached all participants in 2009 to ask whether they would be willing to undergo MRI. Consenting patients underwent clinical assessment and cerebral MRI that included T1-weighted and diffusion tensor imaging to obtain estimates of fractional anisotropy, mean diffusivity, and grey-matter volumes. All images were coregistered to a common minimum deformation template for voxel-based linear regressions relating fractional anisotropy, mean diffusivity, and grey-matter volumes to age and systolic blood pressure, with adjustment for potential confounders.
579 (14·1%) of 4095 participants in the third-generation cohort (mean age 39·2 years, SD 8·4) underwent brain MRI between June, 2009 and June, 2010. Age was associated with decreased fractional anisotropy and increased mean diffusivity in almost all cerebral white-matter voxels. Age was also independently associated with reduced grey-matter volumes. Increased systolic blood pressure was linearly associated with decreased regional fractional anisotropy and increased mean diffusivity, especially in the anterior corpus callosum, the inferior fronto-occipital fasciculi, and the fibres that project from the thalamus to the superior frontal gyrus. It was also strongly associated with reduced grey-matter volumes, particularly in Brodmann’s area 48 on the medial surface of the temporal lobe and Brodmann’s area 21 of the middle temporal gyrus.
Our results suggest that subtle vascular brain injury develops insidiously during life, with discernible effects even in young adults. These findings emphasise the need for early and optimum control of blood pressure.
National Institutes of Health and National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; National Institute on Aging; and National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Heart failure is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and cerebrovascular disease. In the absence of heart failure, we hypothesized that left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF), an indicator of cardiac dysfunction, would be associated with pre-clinical brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and neuropsychological markers of ischemia and AD in the community. Brain MRI, cardiac MRI, neuropsychological, and laboratory data were collected on 1114 Framingham Heart Study Offspring Cohort participants free from clinical stroke or dementia (40–89 years, 67±9; 54% women). Neuropsychological and neuroimaging markers of brain aging were related to cardiac MRI-assessed LVEF. In multivariable-adjusted linear regressions, LVEF was not associated with any brain aging variable (p-values>0.15). However, LVEF quintile analyses yielded several U-shape associations. Compared to the referent (Q2–Q4), the lowest quintile (Q1) LVEF was associated with a lower mean cognitive performance, including Visual Reproduction Delayed Recall (β= −0.27, p<0.001) and Hooper Visual Organization Test (β= −0.27, p<0.001). Compared to the referent, the highest quintile (Q5) LVEF values also were associated with lower mean cognitive performances, including Logical Memory Delayed Recall (β= −0.18, p=0.03), Visual Reproduction Delayed Recall (β= −0.17, p=0.03), Trail Making Test Part B-Part A (β= −0.22, p=0.02) and Hooper Visual Organization Test (Q5 β= −0.20, p=0.02). Findings were similar when analyses were repeated excluding prevalent cardiovascular disease. In conclusion, although our observational cross-sectional data cannot establish causality, they suggest a non-linear association between LVEF and measures of accelerated cognitive aging.
We hypothesized that inflammatory markers are cross-sectionally and longitudinally associated with neuropsychological indicators of early ischemia and Alzheimer's disease.
Framingham Offspring Study participants, free of clinical stroke or dementia (n = 1,878; 60 ± 9 years; 54% women), underwent neuropsychological assessment and ascertainment of 11 inflammatory markers. Follow-up neuropsychological assessments (6.3 ± 1.0 years) were conducted on 1,352 of the original 1,878 participants.
Multivariable linear regression related the inflammatory markers to cross-sectional performance and longitudinal change in neuropsychological performances. Secondary models included a twelfth factor, tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), available on a subset of the sample (n = 1,393 cross-sectional; n = 1,213 longitudinal). Results suggest a few modest cross-sectional inflammatory and neuropsychological associations, particularly for tests assessing visual organization (C-reactive protein, p = 0.007), and a few modest relations between inflammatory markers and neuropsychological change, particularly for executive functioning (TNF-α, p = 0.004). Secondary analyses suggested that inflammatory markers were cross-sectionally (TNF-α, p = 0.004) related to reading performance.
Our findings are largely negative, but suggest that specific inflammatory markers may have limited associations with poorer cognition and reading performance among community-dwelling adults. Because of multiple testing concerns, our limited positive findings are offered as hypothesis generating and require replication in other studies.
Memory; Executive functioning; Inflammation; Cognition; WRAT-3 reading
Diabetic and prediabtic states, including insulin resistance, fasting hyperglycemia, and hyperinsulinemia, are associated with metabolic dysregulation. These components have been individually linked to increased risks of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. We aimed to comprehensively relate all of the components of metabolic dysregulation to cognitive function and brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in middle-aged adults.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS
Framingham Offspring participants who underwent volumetric MRI and detailed cognitive testing and were free of clinical stroke and dementia during examination 7 (1998–2001) constituted our study sample (n = 2,439; 1,311 women; age 61 ± 9 years). We related diabetes, homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR), fasting insulin, and glycohemoglobin levels to cross-sectional MRI measures of total cerebral brain volume (TCBV) and hippocampal volume and to verbal and visuospatial memory and executive function. We serially adjusted for age, sex, and education alone (model A), additionally for other vascular risk factors (model B), and finally, with the inclusion of apolipoprotein E-ε4, plasma homocysteine, C-reactive protein, and interleukin-6 (model C).
We observed an inverse association between all indices of metabolic dysfunction and TCBV in all models (P < 0.030). The observed difference in TCBV between participants with and without diabetes was equivalent to approximately 6 years of chronologic aging. Diabetes and elevated glycohemoglobin, HOMA-IR, and fasting insulin were related to poorer executive function scores (P < 0.038), whereas only HOMA-IR and fasting insulin were inversely related to visuospatial memory (P < 0.007).
Metabolic dysregulation, especially insulin resistance, was associated with lower brain volumes and executive function in a large, relatively healthy, middle-aged, community-based cohort.
White matter hyperintensities (WMH) detectable by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)are part of the spectrum of vascular injury associated with aging of the brain and are thought to reflect ischemic damage to the small deep cerebral vessels. WMH are associated with an increased risk of cognitive and motor dysfunction, dementia, depression, and stroke. Despite a significant heritability, few genetic loci influencing WMH burden have been identified.
We performed a meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies (GWAS) for WMH burden in 9,361 stroke-free individuals of European descent from 7 community-based cohorts. Significant findings were tested for replication in 3,024 individuals from 2 additional cohorts.
We identified 6 novel risk-associated single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs)in one locus on chromosome 17q25 encompassing 6 known genes including WBP2, TRIM65, TRIM47, MRPL38, FBF1, and ACOX1. The most significant association was for rs3744028 (Pdiscovery= 4.0×10−9; Preplication =1.3×10−7; Pcombined =4.0×10−15). Other SNPs in this region also reaching genome-wide significance are rs9894383 (P=5.3×10−9), rs11869977 (P=5.7×10−9), rs936393 (P=6.8×10−9), rs3744017 (P=7.3×10−9), and rs1055129 (P=4.1×10−8). Variant alleles at these loci conferred a small increase in WMH burden (4–8% of the overall mean WMH burden in the sample).
This large GWAS of WMH burden in community-based cohorts of individuals of European descent identifies a novel locus on chromosome 17. Further characterization of this locus may provide novel insights into the pathogenesis of cerebral WMH.
This article focuses on the effects of operational differences in case ascertainment on estimates of prevalence and incidence of cognitive impairment/dementia of the Alzheimer type. Experience and insights are discussed by investigators from the Framingham Heart Study, the East Boston Senior Health Project, the Chicago Health and Aging Project, the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging, the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, and the Aging, Demographics, and Memory Study. There is a general consensus that the single most important factor regulating prevalence estimates of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the severity of cognitive impairment used for case ascertainment. Studies that require a level of cognitive impairment in which persons are unable to provide self-care will have much lower estimates than studies aimed at identifying persons in the earliest stages of AD. There is limited autopsy data from the above-mentioned epidemiologic studies to address accuracy in the diagnosis of etiologic subtype, namely the specification of AD alone or in combination with other types of pathology. However, other community-based cohort studies show that many persons with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) meet pathologic criteria for AD, and a large minority of persons without dementia or MCI also meets pathologic criteria for AD, thereby suggesting that the number of persons who would benefit from an effective secondary prevention intervention is probably higher than the highest published prevalence estimates. Improved accuracy in the clinical diagnosis of AD is anticipated with the addition of molecular and structural biomarkers in the next generation of epidemiologic studies.
Alzheimer’s disease; Dementia; Mild cognitive impairment; Cognitive impairment not dementia; Diagnostic criteria; Population-based; Prevalence, Incidence
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) findings of large white matter hyperintensities (LWMH), decreased brain volume and silent cerebral infarcts (SCI) are subclinical indices of brain ischemia and aging. Although the pathophysiology of these findings remains uncertain, extracellular matrix (ECM) remodeling, a process regulated by matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and their inhibitors (TIMPs), may be implicated.
We evaluated the cross-sectional relations of circulating MMP-9 and TIMP-1 to these MRI indices in 583 stroke and dementia-free, Framingham Offspring participants (mean age 57 years, 58% women). Using multivariable regression MMP-9 (detectable versus non-detectable) and TIMP-1 (modeled as sex-specific quartiles) were related to LWMH (>1 S.D. above age-specific mean; yes/no), SCI (yes/no) and total brain volume (ratio of parenchymal to intracranial volume, TCBVr).
Mean TCBVr was 0.78 (S.D. 0.03), 13% of subjects had LWMH and 12% had SCI. Detectable MMP-9 was associated with higher prevalence of LWMH (OR 2.09, 95%confidence interval (CI) 1.00–4.37), but not with TCBVr. TIMP-1 was associated with a high prevalence of LWMH (OR for Q4 versus Q1–3: 1.83, 95%CI 1.06–3.18) and with lower mean TCBVr (Q4 associated with 0.17 S.D. units lower value relative to Q1–3; p = 0.04). Neither biomarker was associated with SCI.
Our findings are preliminary but if confirmed in further studies, suggest a pathophysiological role for the MMP/TIMP pathway in processes of brain ischemia and aging.
MMPs; Brain MRI; Framingham; Brain aging
Cardiac dysfunction is associated with neuroanatomic and neuropsychological changes in aging adults with prevalent cardiovascular disease (CVD), theoretically because systemic hypoperfusion disrupts cerebral perfusion, contributing to subclinical brain injury. We hypothesized that cardiac function, as measured by cardiac index, would be associated with pre-clinical brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and neuropsychological markers of ischemia and Alzheimer’s disease in the community.
Methods and Results
Brain MRI, cardiac MRI, neuropsychological, and laboratory data were collected on 1504 Framingham Offspring Cohort participants free from clinical stroke, transient ischemic attack, or dementia (61±9 years; 54% women). Neuropsychological and brain MRI variables were related to cardiac MRI-assessed cardiac index (cardiac output/body surface area). In multivariable-adjusted models, cardiac index was positively related to total brain volume (P=0.03) and information processing speed (P=0.02) and inversely related to lateral ventricular volume (P=0.048). When participants with clinically prevalent CVD were excluded, the relation between cardiac index and total brain volume remained (P=0.02). Post-hoc comparisons revealed that participants in the bottom cardiac index tertile (values<2.54) and middle cardiac index tertile (values between 2.54 and 2.92) had significantly lower brain volumes (P=0.04) than participants in the top cardiac index tertile (values>2.92).
Although observational data cannot establish causality, our findings are consistent with the hypothesis that decreasing cardiac function, even at normal cardiac index levels, is associated with accelerated brain aging.
brain; cardiac output; epidemiology; imaging; neuropsychology
Previous studies have demonstrated an association between white matter hyperintensities (WMH) and cognitive performance primarily in Caucasian samples, limiting generalizability to other ethnic and racial groups. This study investigated the association of WMH and cognition in an ethnic and racial minority cohort (Omni) of the Framingham Heart Study and compared these results to the Caucasian (Offspring) cohort.
Quantitative brain MRI and neuropsychological evaluations were performed on stroke- and dementia-free participants. Cognitive assessment included verbal memory, visuospatial memory and organization, language, and executive functioning. Linear regression models were conducted to assess the association between WMH and cognitive function.
The Omni group presented with demographic factors that significantly differed from those of the Offspring group: they were younger, but had more stroke risk factors such as hypertension. In the Offspring group, WMH volume was significantly associated with poorer performance on tests of executive function and visual organization. No significant associations between WMH and cognitive measures were found in the Omni group, but no differences (significant interaction terms) were seen between the regression coefficients.
The Omni cohort had greater variability in factors that may mediate the association of WMH and cognition. More research is needed to investigate how stroke risk factors impact on the occurrence of WMH and its association with cognition in more diverse cohorts.
White matter hyperintensities; Cognition; Executive function; Framingham Heart Study; Magnetic resonance imaging; Cultural/ethnic diversity
Midlife obesity has been associated with an increased risk of dementia. The underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. Our aim was to examine the cross-sectional association of body mass index (BMI), waist circumference (WC), waist to hip ratio (WHR) and CT-based measures of subcutaneous (SAT) and visceral (VAT) adipose tissue with various MRI-markers of brain aging in middle-aged community adults.
Participants from the Framingham Offspring cohort were eligible if in addition to having measures of BMI, WC, WHR, SAT and VAT, they had undergone a volumetric brain MRI scan with measures of total brain volume (TCBV), temporal horn volume (THV), white matter hyperintensity volume (WMHV) and MRI-defined brain infarcts (BI). All analyses were adjusted for age, sex and time interval between abdominal CT and brain MRI.
In a sample of 733 community participants (mean age 60 years, 53% women), we observed an inverse association of BMI (estimate by standard deviation unit ± standard error =−0.27±0.12,p=0.02), WC (−0.30±0.12,p=0.01), WHR (−0.37±0.12,p=0.02), SAT (−0.23±0.11,p=0.04) and VAT (−0.36±0.12,p=0.002) with TCBV, independent of vascular risk factors. The association between VAT and TCBV was the strongest and most robust, and was also independent of BMI (−0.35±0.15,p=0.02) and insulin resistance (−0.32±0.13,p=0.01). When adjusting for C-reactive protein levels the associations were attenuated (−0.17±0.13,p=0.17 for VAT). No consistently significant association was observed between the anthropometric or CT-based abdominal fat measures and THV, WMHV or BI.
In middle-aged community participants we observed a significant inverse association of anthropometric and CT-based measures of abdominal, especially visceral, fat with total brain volume.
To determine if the presence of the apoE4 allele, a known risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, interacts with cerebrovascular risk factors to produce a disproportionate impairment in neuropsychological performance and alterations in structural morphometry as measured by magnetic resonance imaging.
1,995 participants from the community based Framingham Offspring Cohort participants (mean age 61; 1,063 women) underwent neuropsychological testing and structural magnetic resonance imaging in 1999-2002.
Multivariate linear regression was used to estimate the relationships between Framingham Stroke Risk Profile scores, neuropsychological variables and magnetic resonance imaging measures; interaction terms were included to examine modification of these relationships by the presence of the apoE4 allele. All analyses were cross sectional.
We found significant interactions between the presence of the apoE4 allele and the top sex-specific quartile of the Stroke Risk Profile and their effects on verbal memory (p=<0.001), verbal organization (p=<0.001), non-verbal memory (p=0.015), as well as set shifting and complex attention (p=0.005). Systolic blood pressure was the only individual risk factor significantly linked to these cognitive measures. With the exception of lateral ventricular volume, there were no significant interactions between presence of apoE4, the top sex-specific quartile of the Stroke Risk Profile and any of the magnetic resonance imaging variables.
The apoE4 allele exacerbates the effects of cerebrovascular risk factors on neuropsychological function. This relationship appears to be driven by systolic blood pressure, suggesting that treatment of high systolic blood pressure could potentially reduce risk of cognitive impairment among those already at increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
To examine whether there are sex-specific associations between brain MRI measures and neuropsychological test performance.
Differences in cardiovascular risk factors (CVRF) have been linked to decreased total cerebral brain volume (TCBV) and white matter hyperintensities (WMH). Although brain morphology has been related to cognitive performance, few studies have addressed sex-specific effects in this relationship.
Framingham Offspring who were stroke and dementia-free underwent a brain MRI scan and neuropsychological (NP) testing (n=2,085; 978 men). Factor analysis identified four domain-specific neuropsychological factors. MRI participants were divided into four MRI subgroups based on measures of TCBV and combinations of the presence of WMH and silent cerebral infarcts (≥3mm; SCI).
Overall, the relationship between MRI and NP measures was similar between the sexes. The exception was that only men showed a positive relationship between executive function (EF) and cerebrovascular disease defined as large white matter hyperintensity volume plus SCI. This finding was attributed only among men with FSRP scores > 90th percentile range (p=0.0019).
Measures of brain atrophy and subclinical markers of vascular disease showed that sex does not significantly alter the relationship between MRI and NP, except among men and women who are at high risk for stroke; these men show poorer performance on EF, whereas the women do not.
Sex; Brain MRI; Cognition; Neuropsychological tests
A high ratio of plasma amyloid-β peptide 40 (Aβ40) toAβ42, determined by both high Aβ40 and low Aβ42 levels, increases the risk of Alzheimer disease. In a previous study, we reported that depression is also associated with low plasma Aβ42 levels in the elderly population.
To characterize plasma Aβ40:Aβ42 ratio and cognitive function in elderly individuals with and without depression.
A total of 995 homebound elderly individuals of whom 348 were defined as depressed by a Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression score of 16 or greater.
Main Outcome Measures
Cognitive domains of memory, language, executive, and visuospatial functions according to levels of plasma Aβ40 and Aβ42 peptides.
Subjects with depression had lower plasma Aβ42 levels (median, 14.1 vs 19.2 pg/mL; P = .006) and a higher plasma Aβ40:Aβ42 ratio (median, 8.9 vs 6.4; P < .001) than did those without depression in the absence of cardiovascular disease and antidepressant use. The interaction between depression and plasma Aβ40:Aβ42 ratio was associated with lower memory score (β = −1.9, SE = 0.7, P = .006) after adjusting for potentially confounders. Relative to those without depression, “amyloid-associated depression,” defined by presence of depression and a high plasma Aβ40:Aβ42 ratio, was associated with greater impairment in memory, visuospatial ability, and executive function; in contrast, nonamyloid depression was not associated with memory impairment but with other cognitive disabilities.
Amyloid-associated depression may define a subtype of depression representing a prodromal manifestation of Alzheimer disease.
The adipokine leptin facilitates long-term potentiation and synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus, promotes β-amyloid clearance and improves memory function in animal models of aging and Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
To relate baseline circulating leptin concentrations in a dementia-free community-based sample prospectively to 1) incident dementia and AD during follow-up and 2) to MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) measures of brain aging in survivors.
Design, Setting and Participants
Plasma leptin concentrations were measured in 785 dementia-free persons (mean age 79 [SD, 5 yrs], 62% women) from the Framingham Original cohort at the 22nd examination cycle (1990–1994). A sub-sample of 198 dementia-free survivors underwent volumetric brain MRI between 1999 and 2005, approximately 7.7 years after leptin was assayed. Two measures of brain aging, the total cerebral brain volume (TCBV) and temporal horn volume (THV; inversely related to hippocampal volume) were assessed.
Main outcome measure
Incidence of dementia and AD during follow-up till December 31st, 2007.
During a median follow-up of 8.3 (range 0 to 15.5) years, 111 participants developed incident dementia, 89 had AD. Higher leptin levels were associated with a lower risk of incident dementia and AD in multivariable models (hazard ratios [HR] per one-SD increment in log-leptin were 0.68 [0.54–0.87] for all-cause dementia and 0.60 [0.46–0.79] for AD). This corresponds to an absolute AD risk over a 12 year follow-up of 25% for persons in the lowest quartile (Q1) versus 6% for persons in Q4 of sex-specific leptin levels. In addition, a one SD elevation in plasma leptin was associated with higher TCBV and lower THV, although the association of leptin with THV did not reach statistical significance.
Circulating leptin is directly related to indices of brain health in asymptomatic adults and inversely related to risk of incident dementia and AD. Our findings require confirmation in independent samples.
leptin; adipokines; dementia; Alzheimer’s disease
Background and Purpose
Asymmetric dimethylarginine (ADMA), an inhibitor of endothelial nitric oxide synthase, is a marker of endothelial dysfunction. Elevated circulating ADMA concentrations have been associated with systemic and carotid atherosclerosis, an elevated risk of developing stroke and with MRI white matter hyperintensities (WMH). The relation of plasma ADMA to subclinical vascular brain injury has not been previously studied in a middle-aged, community-based sample.
In 2013 stroke-free Framingham Offspring (mean age 58±9.5yrs, 53% women) we related baseline plasma ADMA levels (1995–98) to subsequent brain MRI (1999–2004) measures of subclinical vascular injury: presence of silent brain infarcts (SBI) and large white matter hyperintensity volume (LWMH; defined as >1SD above age-specific mean).
Prevalence of SBI and LWMH were 10.7% and 12.6%, respectively. In multivariable analyses adjusting for age-, sex- and traditional stroke risk factors, higher ADMA levels were associated with an increased risk of prevalent SBI (OR per SD increase in ADMA: 1.16, 95%CI: 1.01–1.33, p= 0.04).We observed that participants in the upper three age-specific quartiles of plasma ADMA had an increased prevalence of SBI (OR for Q2–4 versus Q1:1.43, 95%CI: 1.00–2.04, p<0.05). Prevalence of SBI in Q1and Q2–4 was 8.3% and 11.6%, respectively. Prevalence of LWMH did not differ according to ADMA concentrations.
Higher plasma ADMA was associated with increased prevalence of SBI after adjustment for traditional stroke risk factors. Thus, ADMA may be a potentially useful new biomarker of subclinical vascular brain injury, which is an important correlate of vascular cognitive impairment and risk of stroke.
ADMA; endothelial dysfunction; silent cerebral infarct
Heritability and genetic and environmental correlations of total and regional brain volumes were estimated from a large, generally healthy, community-based sample, to determine if there are common elements to the genetic influence of brain volumes and white matter hyperintensity volume. There were 1538 Framingham Heart Study participants with brain volume measures from quantitative magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) who were free of stroke and other neurological disorders that might influence brain volumes and who were members of families with at least two Framingham Heart Study participants. Heritability was estimated using variance component methodology and adjusting for the components of the Framingham stroke risk profile. Genetic and environmental correlations between traits were obtained from bivariate analysis. Heritability estimates ranging from 0.46 to 0.60, were observed for total brain, white matter hyperintensity, hippocampal, temporal lobe, and lateral ventricular volumes. Moderate, yet significant, heritability was observed for the other measures. Bivariate analyses demonstrated that relationships between brain volume measures, except for white matter hyperintensity, reflected both moderate to strong shared genetic and shared environmental influences. This study confirms strong genetic effects on brain and white matter hyperintensity volumes. These data extend current knowledge by showing that these two different types of MRI measures do not share underlying genetic or environmental influences.
heritability; quantitative MRI; brain volume; white matter hyperintensity
Background and Purpose
Carotid atherosclerosis has been associated with increased risk of stroke, and poorer cognitive performance in older adults. The relation of carotid atherosclerosis to cognitive impairment and MRI indices of ischemia and aging in midlife is less clear.
We studied 1,975 Framingham Offspring Study participants free of stroke and dementia with available carotid ultrasound, brain MRI and neuropsychological testing. We related common and internal carotid artery intima-media thickness (ICA-IMT and CCA-IMT respectively) and internal carotid stenosis (CAS) to large white matter hyperintensity (>1-SD above age-specific mean; LWMH), total brain volume (TCBV), hippocampal volume, silent cerebral infarcts (SCI) and neuropsychological measures of verbal memory, executive function and non-verbal memory measures.
We observed that ICA-IMT, but not CCA-IMT, was associated with higher prevalence of SCI (OR 1.21, 95% CI 1.03–1.43, p<0.05), LWMH (OR 1.19, 95% CI 1.03–1.38, p<0.05), lower TCBV (−0.05 per SD, p<0.05) and poorer performance in verbal memory (−0.06 per SD; p<0.05) and non-verbal memory measures (−0.08 per SD; p<0.01), but not with hippocampal volume. CAS ≥25% was associated with a higher prevalence of LWMH (adjusted OR 1.77, 95% CI 1.25–2.53) and lower TCBV (−0.11 per SD, p=0.042) but not with SCI or hippocampal volume. CAS ≥50% was associated with higher prevalence of SCI (OR 2.53, 95% CI 1.17 – 5.44), LWMH (OR 2.35, 95% CI 1.08–5.13) and poorer performance on executive function (−0.39 per SD; p<0.05) but not with TCBV or hippocampal volume.
Carotid atherosclerosis markers were associated with MRI indices of brain ischemia and aging and with cognitive impairment in a community-based sample of middle-aged adults. Our data suggest that ICA-IMT may be a better marker for cognitive impairment than CCA-IMT.
Carotid atherosclerosis; brain MRI; cognitive performance