Structural tract alterations predict downstream tau accumulation in amyloid-positive older individuals

Heidi I.L. Jacobs, Trey Hedden, Aaron P. Schultz, Jorge Sepulcre, Rodrigo D. Perea, Rebecca E. Amariglio, Kathryn V. Papp, Dorene M. Rentz, Reisa A. Sperling, Keith A. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

178 Scopus citations


Animal models of Alzheimer's disease have suggested that tau pathology propagation, facilitated by amyloid pathology, may occur along connected pathways. To investigate these ideas in humans, we combined amyloid scans with longitudinal data on white matter connectivity, hippocampal volume, tau positron emission tomography and memory performance in 256 cognitively healthy older individuals. Lower baseline hippocampal volume was associated with increased mean diffusivity of the connecting hippocampal cingulum bundle (HCB). HCB diffusivity predicted tau accumulation in the downstream-connected posterior cingulate cortex in amyloid-positive but not in amyloid-negative individuals. Furthermore, HCB diffusivity predicted memory decline in amyloid-positive individuals with high posterior cingulate cortex tau binding. Our results provide in vivo evidence that higher amyloid pathology strengthens the association between HCB diffusivity and tau accumulation in the downstream posterior cingulate cortex and facilitates memory decline. This confirms amyloid's crucial role in potentiating neural vulnerability and memory decline marking the onset of preclinical Alzheimer's disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)424-431
Number of pages8
JournalNature Neuroscience
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2018
Externally publishedYes


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