Interactive associations of vascular risk and β-amyloid burden with cognitive decline in clinically normal elderly individuals findings from the Harvard Aging Brain Study

Jennifer S. Rabin, Aaron P. Schultz, Trey Hedden, Anand Viswanathan, Gad A. Marshall, Emily Kilpatrick, Hannah Klein, Rachel F. Buckley, Hyun Sik Yang, Michael Properzi, Vaishnavi Rao, Dylan R. Kirn, Kathryn V. Papp, Dorene M. Rentz, Keith A. Johnson, Reisa A. Sperling, Jasmeer P. Chhatwal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

166 Scopus citations


Importance: Identifying asymptomatic individuals at high risk of impending cognitive decline because of Alzheimer disease is crucial for successful prevention of dementia. Vascular risk and β-amyloid (Aβ) pathology commonly co-occur in older adults and are significant causes of cognitive impairment. Objective: To determine whether vascular risk and Aβ burden act additively or synergistically to promote cognitive decline in clinically normal older adults; and, secondarily, to evaluate the unique influence of vascular risk on prospective cognitive decline beyond that of commonly used imaging biomarkers, including Aβ burden, hippocampal volume, fludeoxyglucose F18-labeled (FDG) positron emission tomography (PET), and white matter hyperintensities, a marker of cerebrovascular disease. Design, Setting, and Participants: In this longitudinal observational study, we examined clinically normal older adults from the Harvard Aging Brain Study. Participants were required to have baseline imaging data (FDG-PET, Aβ-PET, and magnetic resonance imaging), baseline medical data to quantify vascular risk, and at least 1 follow-up neuropsychological visit. Data collection began in 2010 and is ongoing. Data analysis was performed on data collected between 2010 and 2017. Main Outcomes and Measures: Vascular riskwas quantified using the Framingham Heart Study general cardiovascular disease (FHS-CVD) risk score. We measured Aβ burden with Pittsburgh Compound-B PET. Cognition was measured annually with the Preclinical Alzheimer Cognitive Composite. Models were corrected for baseline age, sex, years of education, and apolipoprotein E ϵ4 status. Results: Of the 223 participants, 130 (58.3%) were women. The mean (SD) age was 73.7 (6.0) years, and the mean (SD) follow-up time was 3.7 (1.2) years. Faster cognitive decline was associated with both a higher FHS-CVD risk score (β = -0.064; 95%CI, -0.094 to -0.033; P < .001) and higher Aβ burden (β = -0.058; 95%CI, -0.079 to -0.037; P < .001). The interaction of the FHS-CVD risk score and Aβ burden with time was significant (β = -0.040, 95% CI, -0.062 to -0.018; P < .001), suggesting a synergistic effect. The FHS-CVD risk score remained robustly associated with prospective cognitive decline (β = -0.055; 95%CI, -0.086 to -0.024; P < .001), even after adjustment for Aβ burden, hippocampal volume, FDG-PET uptake, and white matter hyperintensities. Conclusions and Relevance: In this study, vascular risk was associated with prospective cognitive decline in clinically normal older adults, both alone and synergistically with Aβ burden. Vascular risk may complement imaging biomarkers in assessing risk of prospective cognitive decline in preclinical Alzheimer disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1124-1131
Number of pages8
JournalJAMA Neurology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2018
Externally publishedYes


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