Longitudinal Association of Depression Symptoms with Cognition and Cortical Amyloid among Community-Dwelling Older Adults

Jennifer R. Gatchel, Jennifer S. Rabin, Rachel F. Buckley, Joseph J. Locascio, Yakeel T. Quiroz, Hyun Sik Yang, Patrizia Vannini, Rebecca E. Amariglio, Dorene M. Rentz, Michael Properzi, Nancy J. Donovan, Deborah Blacker, Keith A. Johnson, Reisa A. Sperling, Gad A. Marshall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Importance: Depressive symptoms are prevalent among older adults and may be early manifestations of Alzheimer disease (AD) before onset of mild cognitive impairment. However, it remains unclear whether worsening depressive symptoms in the presence of AD pathology are associated with cognitive decline in older adults. Objective: To determine the longitudinal association between depressive symptoms, cognition, and cortical amyloid in community-dwelling older adults. Design, Setting, and Participants: Participants from the Harvard Aging Brain Study, a cohort study, underwent annual assessments of depression and cognition and baseline cortical amyloid measurement (mean, 4.42 years; range, 2-7 years). Data collection was from September 2010 to August 2017 in a convenience sample of community-dwelling adults (276 participants, all cognitively unimpaired) with at most mild depression at entry. Main Outcomes and Measures: Depression (Geriatric Depression Scale [GDS]), cognition (Preclinical Alzheimer Cognitive Composite [PACC]), and a continuous measure of cortical amyloid (Pittsburgh Compound-B positron emission tomography imaging). Change in GDS and baseline amyloid were examined as interactive predictors of PACC decline in a linear mixed model with backward elimination, adjusting for age, sex, and education. Results: Participants were 164 women and 112 men (mean [SD] age, 73.5 [6.0] years). At baseline, the mean (SD) GDS score was 3.0 (2.8) (range, 0-12), the mean (SD) PACC score was -0.004 (0.67) (range, -2.32 to 1.88), and the mean (SD) amyloid positron emission tomography distribution volume ratio was 1.16 (0.20) (range, 0.92-1.94). At last follow-up, the mean (SD) GDS score was 3.9 (2.9) (range, 0-12), and the mean (SD) PACC score was -0.09 (1.27) (range, -5.66 to 1.67). The interaction between cortical amyloid and increasing GDS was associated with declining cognition (β = -0.19; 95% CI, -0.27 to -0.12; P <.001). Conclusions and Relevance: In this study, cortical amyloid moderated the association between worsening depressive symptoms and declining cognition in older adults. While future work is needed to better understand causal associations, these findings may enhance early detection and prevention of AD clinical symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJAMA network open
StateAccepted/In press - 2019
Externally publishedYes


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