PASSED: Brain atrophy in non-demented individuals in a long-term longitudinal study from two independent cohorts

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Haas, Anna-Lena
Olm, Pauline
Utz, Janine
Siegmann, Eva-Maria
Spitzer, Philipp
Florvaag, Anna
Schmidt, Manuel Alexander
Doerfler, Arnd
Lewczuk, Piotr
Kornhuber, Johannes
Frontiers Media S.A.

Introduction Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is indicated by a decrease in amyloid beta 42 (Aβ42) level or the Aβ42/Aβ40 ratio, and by increased levels of Tau with phosphorylated threonine at position 181 (pTau181) in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) years before the onset of clinical symptoms. However, once only pTau181 is increased, cognitive decline in individuals with subjective or mild cognitive impairment is slowed compared to individuals with AD. Instead of a decrease in Aβ42 levels, an increase in Aβ42 was observed in these individuals, leading to the proposal to refer to them as nondemented subjects with increased pTau-levels and Aβ surge with subtle cognitive deterioration (PASSED). In this study, we determined the longitudinal atrophy rates of AD, PASSED, and Biomarker-negative nondemented individuals of two independent cohorts to determine whether these groups can be distinguished by their longitudinal atrophy patterns or rates.

Methods Depending on their CSF-levels of pTau 181 (T), total Tau (tTau, N), Aβ42 or ratio of Aβ42/Aβ40 (A), 185 non-demented subjects from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) and 62 non-demented subjects from Erlangen AD cohort were assigned to an ATN group (A–T–N–, A–T+N±, A+T–N±and A+T+N±) and underwent T1-weighted structural magnetic resonance imaging (sMRI). Longitudinal grey matter (GM) atrophy patterns were assessed with voxel-based morphometry (VBM) using the cat12 toolbox on spm12 (statistical parametric mapping) of MRI scans from individuals in the ADNI cohort with a mean follow-up of 2 and 5 years, respectively. The annualized atrophy rate for individuals in the Erlangen cohort was determined using region of interest analysis (ROI) in terms of a confirmatory analysis.

Results In the A–T+N± group, VBM did not identify any brain region that showed greater longitudinal atrophy than the A+T+N±, A+T+N± or biomarker negative control group. In contrast, marked longitudinal atrophy in the temporal lobe was evident in the A+T–N± group compared with A+T–N±  and biomarker-negative subjects. The ROI in the angular gyrus identified by VBM analysis of the ADNI cohort did not discriminate better than the hippocampal volume and atrophy rate between AD and PASSED in the confirmatory analysis.

Discussion In this study, nondemented subjects with PASSED did not show a unique longitudinal atrophy pattern in comparison to nondemented subjects with AD. The nonsignificant atrophy rate compared with controls suggests that increased pTau181-levels without concomitant amyloidopathy did not indicate a neurodegenerative disorder.

Journal Title
Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience
Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience 15 (2023): 1121500. <>
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