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1.  Serum Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor and the Risk for Dementia 
JAMA neurology  2014;71(1):55-61.
In animal studies, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) has been shown to impact neuronal survival and function and improve synaptic plasticity and long-term memory. Circulating BDNF levels increase with physical activity and caloric restriction, thus BDNF may mediate some of the observed associations between lifestyle and the risk for dementia. Some prior studies showed lower circulating BDNF in persons with Alzheimer disease (AD) compared with control participants; however, it remains uncertain whether reduced levels precede dementia onset.
To examine whether higher serum BDNF levels in cognitively healthy adults protect against the future risk for dementia and AD and to identify potential modifiers of this association.
Framingham Study original and offspring participants were followed up from 1992 and 1998, respectively, for up to 10 years. We used Cox models to relate BDNF levels to the risk for dementia and AD and adjusted for potential confounders. We also ran sensitivity analyses stratified by sex, age, and education, as well as related BDNF genetic variants to AD risk. This community-based, prospective cohort study involved 2131 dementia-free participants aged 60 years and older (mean [SD] age, 72 [7] years; 56% women).
Ten-year incidence of dementia and AD.
During follow-up, 140 participants developed dementia, 117 of whom had AD. Controlling for age and sex, each standard-deviation increment in BDNF was associated with a 33% lower risk for dementia and AD (P = .006 and P = .01, respectively) and these associations persisted after additional adjustments. Compared with the bottom quintile, BDNF levels in the top quintile were associated with less than half the risk for dementia and AD (hazard ratio, 0.49; 95%CI, 0.28–0.85; P = .01; and hazard ratio, 0.46; 95%CI, 0.24–0.86; P = .02, respectively). These associations were apparent only among women, persons aged 80 years and older, and those with college degrees (hazard ratios for AD: 0.65, [95%CI, 0.50–0.85], P = .001; 0.63 [95%CI, 0.47–0.85], P = .002; and 0.27 [95%CI, 0.11–0.65], P = .003, respectively). Brain-derived neurotrophic factor genetic variants were not associated with AD risk.
Higher serum BDNF levels may protect against future occurrence of dementia and AD. Our findings suggest a role for BDNF in the biology and possibly in the prevention of dementia and AD, especially in select subgroups of women and older and more highly educated persons.
PMCID: PMC4056186  PMID: 24276217
2.  Association of Parental Stroke with Brain Injury and Cognitive Measures in Offspring – The Framingham Heart Study 
Background and purpose
Parental stroke has been related to an increased risk of stroke in the offspring. This study examines whether parental stroke is also associated with increased vascular brain injury and poorer cognitive performance among offspring free of clinical stroke.
Multivariable regression analyses were used to relate parental stroke to cross-sectional and change in brain magnetic resonance imaging measures and cognitive function among the offspring, with and without adjustment for vascular risk factors.
Stroke- and dementia-free Framingham Offspring (n=1,297, age:61±9 years, 54% women) were studied. Parental stroke by age 65 years was associated with a higher baseline white matter hyperintensity volume (WMHV;β=0.17±0.08; p=0.027), and with lower visual memory performance (β =−0.80±0.34; p=0.017). During a 6 year follow-up, parental stroke was also associated with increase in WMHV (odds ratio [OR] = 1.87;95%CI:1.03–3.38) and decline in executive function (Trails B–A; OR=1.81;95%CI:1.06–3.09). The associations with WMHV and visual memory attenuated after additional adjustment for concomitant vascular risk factors.
Parental stroke by age 65 years is associated with increased vascular brain injury and lower memory in offspring equivalent to 3 and 7 years of brain aging, respectively. This may be partly attributed to inheritance of vascular risk factors.
PMCID: PMC3752976  PMID: 23362080
stroke; cognitive function; brain MRI
3.  Apolipoprotein Epsilon 4 Allele Modifies Waist-to-Hip Ratio Effects on Cognition and Brain Structure 
This study aimed to determine whether relationships between obesity, as measured by waist-to-hip ratio (WHR), and cognition and brain structure were modified by the apolipoprotein epsilon 4 allele (apoE4). The sample included 1,969 stroke and dementia-free participants from the Framingham Offspring Cohort who underwent neuropsychological (NP) testing and structural Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) between 1999–2002. WHR was categorized into sex-specific quartiles with those in Q4 representing central obesity. Multivariate linear regression estimated the relationships between Q4-WHR, cognitive and MRI measures; interaction terms examined modification of these relationships by the presence of apoE4. All analyses were cross sectional.
ApoE4 status significantly modified a number of associations. Specifically, we observed a significant negative relationship between Q4-WHR and a measure of executive function in the apoE4+ group but not in the apoE4− group. Similarly, we observed a stronger negative relationship between Q4-WHR and a measure of memory function for those in the apoE4+ group compared to those in the apoE4− group. Additionally, apoE4 status modified the relationship between Q4-WHR and two measures of structural brain integrity. First, a paradoxical finding of a negative association between WHR and frontal brain volume that was significant only for those in the apoE4- group, and a second finding that WHR was significantly associated with greater white matter hyperintensity volume only in the apoE4+ group.
These findings suggest that associations between central adiposity and both neuropsychological performance and underlying brain structure are highly complex and must be considered in the context of possible modifying genetic influences.
PMCID: PMC3613758  PMID: 21835633
waist-to-hip ratio; apoE4; metabolic syndrome; obesity; Alzheimer’s disease
4.  Risk estimations, risk factors and genetic variants associated with Alzheimer Disease in selected publications from the Framingham Heart Study 
Journal of Alzheimer's disease : JAD  2013;33(0 1):S439-S445.
The study of Alzheimer Disease (AD) in the Framingham Heart Study (FHS), a multi-generational, community-based population study, began nearly four decades ago. In this overview, we highlight findings from 7 prior publications that examined lifetime risk estimates for AD, environmental risk factors for AD, circulating and imaging markers of aging-related brain injury and explorations on the genetics underlying AD.
PMCID: PMC3672236  PMID: 22796871
Cohort Studies; Alzheimer's disease; Risk factors; Cerebrovascular Disorders; Genetic variation
Experimental aging research  2013;39(5):10.1080/0361073X.2013.839029.
Background/Study Context
Studies have found that executive functioning is affected early in the pathophysiological processes associated with Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. There also exists a range of functioning on executive tasks during normal aging. Although qualitative data are commonly utilized in clinical practice for evaluating subtle changes in cognitive functioning and diagnostic discernment, it is not clear whether error responses used in clinical practice are also evident as normative behavior.
As part of an extensive battery of neuropsychological tests, executive functioning measures (i.e., Trail Making-B, Similarities and Verbal Fluency tests) were administered via standardized administration prescript. Regression analyses were used to determine associations between vascular aging indices and qualitative performance measures. Descriptive statistics are included for 1907 cognitively normal individuals.
Results suggest that while qualitative errors do occur, they are relatively infrequent within a presumably cognitively normal sample. Error commission rates on executive functioning tests are significantly associated with both age and education.
Provided is a baseline profile of errors committed on tests of executive function across a range of age and educational levels. The normative datasets are included, stratified by age and educational achievement, for which to compare qualitative test performance of clinical and research populations.
PMCID: PMC3836045  PMID: 24151914
6.  COSMIC (Cohort Studies of Memory in an International Consortium): An international consortium to identify risk and protective factors and biomarkers of cognitive ageing and dementia in diverse ethnic and sociocultural groups 
BMC Neurology  2013;13:165.
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.
PMCID: PMC3827845  PMID: 24195705
Cohort studies; Cognitive ageing; Data harmonisation; Dementia; International consortium; Mild cognitive impairment
7.  Lipoprotein phospholipase A2 (Lp-PLA2) and cerebral microbleeds (CMBs) in the Framingham Heart Study 
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.
PMCID: PMC3544291  PMID: 22961963
8.  Are Empirically-Derived Subtypes of Mild Cognitive Impairment Consistent with Conventional Subtypes? 
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.
PMCID: PMC3742806  PMID: 23552486
Mild cognitive impairment; Amnestic MCI; Non-amnestic MCI; Dementia; Cluster analysis; Neuropsychology
9.  The Framingham Heart Study Clock Drawing Performance: Normative Data from the Offspring Cohort 
Experimental aging research  2013;39(1):80-108.
Background/Study Context
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.
PMCID: PMC3612583  PMID: 23316738
Clock Drawing Test; Normal aging; Scoring methods; Neuropsychological tests; Dementia; Cognitive screening
10.  Multiple Biomarkers and Risk of Clinical and Subclinical Vascular Brain Injury: The Framingham Offspring Study 
Circulation  2012;125(17):2100-2107.
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.
PMCID: PMC3427730  PMID: 22456473
biomarkers; epidemiology; magnetic resonance imaging; risk stratification; stroke prevention
11.  Common variants at 6q22 and 17q21 are associated with intracranial volume 
Nature genetics  2012;44(5):539-544.
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.
PMCID: PMC3618290  PMID: 22504418
12.  The Framingham Brain Donation Program: Neuropathology Along the Cognitive Continuum 
Current Alzheimer research  2012;9(6):673-686.
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.
PMCID: PMC3622706  PMID: 22471865
Brain; autopsy; epidemiology; alzheimer's disease; brain ischemia
13.  Biomarkers for Insulin Resistance and Inflammation and the Risk for All-Cause Dementia and Alzheimer Disease 
Archives of neurology  2012;69(5):10.1001/archneurol.2011.670.
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.
PMCID: PMC3512190  PMID: 22213409
14.  Effects of systolic blood pressure on white-matter integrity in young adults in the Framingham Heart Study: a cross-sectional study 
Lancet neurology  2012;11(12):1039-1047.
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.
PMCID: PMC3510663  PMID: 23122892
15.  Relation of Left Ventricular Ejection Fraction to Cognitive Aging (From the Framingham Heart Study) 
The American journal of cardiology  2011;108(9):1346-1351.
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.
PMCID: PMC3204899  PMID: 21880293
16.  Inflammatory Markers and Neuropsychological Functioning: The Framingham Heart Study 
Neuroepidemiology  2011;37(1):21-30.
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.
PMCID: PMC3142099  PMID: 21757961
Memory; Executive functioning; Inflammation; Cognition; WRAT-3 reading
17.  Association of Metabolic Dysregulation With Volumetric Brain Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Cognitive Markers of Subclinical Brain Aging in Middle-Aged Adults 
Diabetes Care  2011;34(8):1766-1770.
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.
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.
PMCID: PMC3142014  PMID: 21680719
18.  Genome-wide association studies of cerebral white matter lesion burden: the CHARGE Consortium 
Annals of neurology  2011;69(6):928-939.
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.
PMCID: PMC3122147  PMID: 21681796
19.  Operationalizing diagnostic criteria for Alzheimer’s disease and other age-related cognitive impairment—Part 2* 
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.
PMCID: PMC3039838  PMID: 21255742
Alzheimer’s disease; Dementia; Mild cognitive impairment; Cognitive impairment not dementia; Diagnostic criteria; Population-based; Prevalence, Incidence
20.  Association of matrix metalloproteinases with MRI indices of brain ischemia and aging 
Neurobiology of aging  2009;31(12):2128-2135.
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.
PMCID: PMC2891210  PMID: 19128858
MMPs; Brain MRI; Framingham; Brain aging
21.  Cardiac index is associated with brain aging: The Framingham Heart Study 
Circulation  2010;122(7):690-697.
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.
PMCID: PMC2929763  PMID: 20679552
brain; cardiac output; epidemiology; imaging; neuropsychology
22.  White Matter Hyperintensity and Cognitive Functioning in the Racial and Ethnic Minority Cohort of the Framingham Heart Study 
Neuroepidemiology  2010;35(2):117-122.
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.
PMCID: PMC2945265  PMID: 20551699
White matter hyperintensities; Cognition; Executive function; Framingham Heart Study; Magnetic resonance imaging; Cultural/ethnic diversity
23.  Visceral fat is associated with lower brain volume in healthy middle-aged adults 
Annals of neurology  2010;68(2):136-144.
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.
PMCID: PMC2933649  PMID: 20695006
24.  Interactive Effects of apoE4 Genotype and Cerebrovascular Risk on Neuropsychological Performance and Structural Brain Changes 
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.
PMCID: PMC2900511  PMID: 20471857
25.  Profiles by Sex of Brain MRI and Cognitive Function in The Framingham Offspring Study 
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.
PMCID: PMC2879078  PMID: 20505436
Sex; Brain MRI; Cognition; Neuropsychological tests

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