Early cerebral amyloid-β accumulation and hypermetabolism are associated with subtle cognitive deficits before accelerated cerebral atrophy

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Aims: Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is characterized by the accumulation of amyloid beta (Aβ) in the brain. The deposition of Aβ is believed to initiate a detrimental cascade, including cerebral hypometabolism, accelerated brain atrophy, and cognitive problems—ultimately resulting in AD. However, the timing and causality of the cascade resulting in AD are not yet fully established. Therefore, we examined whether early Aβ accumulation affects cerebral glucose metabolism, atrophy rate, and age-related cognitive decline before the onset of neurodegenerative disease. 

Methods: Participants from the Metropolit 1953 Danish Male Birth Cohort underwent brain positron emission tomography (PET) imaging using the radiotracers [11C]Pittsburgh Compound-B (PiB) (N = 70) and [18F]Fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) (N = 76) to assess cerebral Aβ accumulation and glucose metabolism, respectively. The atrophy rate was calculated from anatomical magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans conducted presently and 10 years ago. Cognitive decline was examined from neurophysiological tests conducted presently and ten or 5 years ago. 

Results: Higher Aβ accumulation in AD-critical brain regions correlated with greater visual memory decline (p = 0.023). Aβ accumulation did not correlate with brain atrophy rates. Increased cerebral glucose metabolism in AD-susceptible regions correlated with worse verbal memory performance (p = 0.040). 

Conclusions: Aβ accumulation in known AD-related areas was associated with subtle cognitive deficits. The association was observed before hypometabolism or accelerated brain atrophy, suggesting that Aβ accumulation is involved early in age-related cognitive dysfunction. The association between hypermetabolism and worse memory performance may be due to early compensatory mechanisms adapting for malfunctioning neurons by increasing metabolism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)769–782
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s).

    Research areas

  • Aging, Amyloid, Atrophy, Cerebral glucose metabolism, Cognition, PET imaging

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