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Tau Protein is Associated with Longitudinal Memory Decline in Cognitively Healthy Subjects with Normal Alzheimer's Disease Cerebrospinal Fluid Biomarker Levels

Tort-Merino A, Olives J, León M, Peñaloza C, Valech N, Santos-Santos MA, Càmara E, Grönholm-Nyman P, Martínez-Lage P, Fortea J, Molinuevo JL, Sánchez-Valle R, Laine M, Rodríguez-Fornells A, Rami L

Abstract

Objective: Employing a new highly demanding learning and memory test (the Ancient Farming Equipment Test; AFE-T), we aimed to investigate whether a biomarker related to neurodegeneration (i.e., CSF tau) was associated with longitudinal memory decline. Methods: Thirty-two cognitively and biologically normal (CBN) subjects underwent MRI, neuropsychological assessment, and the AFE-T at baseline and 18 months later. To explore the relationship between cognitive performance and relevant factors, a linear model was set up. For a secondary analysis that further explore the effect of tau, the subjects were divided into CBN-Tau↓ (tau 228.64 pg/ml; n = 16) and CBN-Tau↑ (tau > 228.64 pg/ml; n = 16). We also performed voxel-based morphometry (VBM) to identify regions of grey matter volume that would predict both baseline and longitudinal cognitive performance. Results: Our main finding was an association between CSF tau and longitudinal memory decline measured with AFE-T (B = -0.17, p 0.05; r = -0.414; p 0.01), and further analyses showed different evolvement between subgroups, with an accelerated decline in individuals with higher tau (F(1,31) = 8.37; p 0.01). VBM results suggested that AFE-T performance is related to grey matter volume in a medial temporal, middle frontal, and posterior cerebellar network at baseline, and that there are strategic brain areas driving the longitudinal cognitive changes. Conclusions: The present findings provide evidence for structural and biological markers linked to cognitive aging by highlighting the role of tau, a marker of neurodegeneration, which can be related with the earliest memory changes in healthy subjects.
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Reference

Tort-Merino A, Olives J, León M, Peñaloza C, Valech N, Santos-Santos MA, Càmara E, Grönholm-Nyman P, Martínez-Lage P, Fortea J, Molinuevo JL, Sánchez-Valle R, Laine M, Rodríguez-Fornells A, Rami L. Tau Protein is Associated with Longitudinal Memory Decline in Cognitively Healthy Subjects with Normal Alzheimer's Disease Cerebrospinal Fluid Biomarker Levels. J Alzheimers Dis. 2019;70(1):211-225. doi:10.3233/JAD-190046