Cognitive, functional, and neuropsychiatric correlates of regional tau pathology in autopsy-confirmed chronic traumatic encephalopathy

Michael L. Alosco, Micaela White, Carter Bell, Farwa Faheem, Yorghos Tripodis, Eukyung Yhang, Zachary Baucom, Brett Martin, Joseph Palmisano, Kristen Dams-O’Connor, John F. Crary, Lee E. Goldstein, Douglas I. Katz, Brigid Dwyer, Daniel H. Daneshvar, Christopher Nowinski, Robert C. Cantu, Neil W. Kowall, Robert A. Stern, Victor E. AlvarezBertrand Russell Huber, Thor D. Stein, Ann C. McKee, Jesse Mez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a neurodegenerative disease characterized by hyperphosphorylated tau (p-tau) accumulation. The clinical features associated with CTE pathology are unclear. In brain donors with autopsy-confirmed CTE, we investigated the association of CTE p-tau pathology density and location with cognitive, functional, and neuropsychiatric symptoms. Methods: In 364 brain donors with autopsy confirmed CTE, semi-quantitative p-tau severity (range: 0–3) was assessed in 10 cortical and subcortical regions. We summed ratings across regions to form a p-tau severity global composite (range: 0–30). Informants completed standardized scales of cognition (Cognitive Difficulties Scale, CDS; BRIEF-A Metacognition Index, MI), activities of daily living (Functional Activities Questionnaire), neurobehavioral dysregulation (BRIEF-A Behavioral Regulation Index, BRI; Barratt Impulsiveness Scale, BIS-11), aggression (Brown-Goodwin Aggression Scale), depression (Geriatric Depression Scale-15, GDS-15), and apathy (Apathy Evaluation Scale, AES). Ordinary least squares regression models examined associations between global and regional p-tau severity (separate models for each region) with each clinical scale, adjusting for age at death, racial identity, education level, and history of hypertension, obstructive sleep apnea, and substance use treatment. Ridge regression models that incorporated p-tau severity across all regions in the same model assessed which regions showed independent effects. Results: The sample was predominantly American football players (333; 91.2%); 140 (38.5%) had low CTE and 224 (61.5%) had high CTE. Global p-tau severity was associated with higher (i.e., worse) scores on the cognitive and functional scales: MI (βstandardized = 0.02, 95%CI = 0.01–0.04), CDS (βstandardized = 0.02, 95%CI = 0.01–0.04), and FAQ (βstandardized = 0.03, 95%CI = 0.01–0.04). After false-discovery rate correction, p-tau severity in the frontal, inferior parietal, and superior temporal cortex, and the amygdala was associated with higher CDS (β sstandardized = 0.17–0.29, ps < 0.01) and FAQ (β sstandardized = 0.21–0.26, ps < 0.01); frontal and inferior parietal cortex was associated with higher MI (β sstandardized = 0.21–0.29, ps < 0.05); frontal cortex was associated with higher BRI (βstandardized = 0.21, p < 0.01). Regions with effects independent of other regions included frontal cortex (CDS, MI, FAQ, BRI), inferior parietal cortex (CDS) and amygdala (FAQ). P-tau explained 13–49% of variance in cognitive and functional scales and 6–14% of variance in neuropsychiatric scales. Conclusion: Accumulation of p-tau aggregates, especially in the frontal cortex, are associated with cognitive, functional, and certain neurobehavioral symptoms in CTE.

Original languageEnglish
Article number10
JournalMolecular Neurodegeneration
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2024


  • Activities of daily living
  • Amygdala
  • Behavioral dysregulation
  • Chronic traumatic encephalopathy
  • Clinicopathological correlation
  • Cognition
  • Frontal cortex
  • Tau
  • Temporal cortex
  • Traumatic brain injury


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