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Blood biomarkers of Alzheimer's disease (AD) may allow for the early detection of AD pathology in mild cognitive impairment (MCI) due to AD (MCI-AD) and as a co-pathology in MCI with Lewy bodies (MCI-LB). However not all cases of MCI-LB will feature AD pathology. Disease-general biomarkers of neurodegeneration, such as glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) or neurofilament light (NfL), may therefore provide a useful supplement to AD biomarkers. We aimed to compare the relative utility of plasma Aβ42/40, p-tau181, GFAP and NfL in differentiating MCI-AD and MCI-LB from cognitively healthy older adults, and from one another.
Plasma samples were analysed for 172 participants (31 healthy controls, 48 MCI-AD, 28 possible MCI-LB and 65 probable MCI-LB) at baseline, and a subset (n = 55) who provided repeated samples after ≥1 year. Samples were analysed with a Simoa 4-plex assay for Aβ42, Aβ40, GFAP and NfL, and incorporated previously-collected p-tau181 from this same cohort.
Probable MCI-LB had elevated GFAP (p < 0.001) and NfL (p = 0.012) relative to controls, but not significantly lower Aβ42/40 (p = 0.06). GFAP and p-tau181 were higher in MCI-AD than MCI-LB. GFAP discriminated all MCI subgroups, from controls (AUC of 0.75), but no plasma-based marker effectively differentiated MCI-AD from MCI-LB. NfL correlated with disease severity and increased with MCI progression over time (p = 0.011).
Markers of AD and astrocytosis/neurodegeneration are elevated in MCI-LB. GFAP offered similar utility to p-tau181 in distinguishing MCI overall, and its subgroups, from healthy controls.
Impaired olfaction may be a biomarker for early Lewy body disease, but its value in mild cognitive impairment with Lewy bodies (MCI-LB) is unknown. We compared olfaction in MCI-LB with MCI due to Alzheimer’s disease (MCI-AD) and healthy older adults. We hypothesized that olfactory function would be worse in probable MCI-LB than in both MCI-AD and healthy comparison subjects (HC).
Cross-sectional study assessing olfaction using Sniffin’ Sticks 16 (SS-16) in MCI-LB, MCI-AD, and HC with longitudinal follow-up. Differences were adjusted for age, and receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves were used for discriminating MCI-LB from MCI-AD and HC.
Participants were recruited from Memory Services in the North East of England.
Thirty-eight probable MCI-LB, 33 MCI-AD, 19 possible MCI-LB, and 32HC.
Olfaction was assessed using SS-16 and a questionnaire.
Participants with probable MCI-LB had worse olfaction than both MCI-AD (age-adjusted mean difference (B) = 2.05, 95% CI: 0.62–3.49, p = 0.005) and HC (B = 3.96, 95% CI: 2.51–5.40, p < 0.001). The previously identified cutoff score for the SS-16 of ≤ 10 had 84% sensitivity for probable MCI-LB (95% CI: 69–94%), but 30% specificity versus MCI-AD. ROC analysis found a lower cutoff of ≤ 7 was better (63% sensitivity for MCI-LB, with 73% specificity vs MCI-AD and 97% vs HC). Asking about olfactory impairments was not useful in identifying them.
MCI-LB had worse olfaction than MCI-AD and normal aging. A lower cutoff score of ≤ 7 is required when using SS-16 in such patients. Olfactory testing may have value in identifying early LB disease in memory services.
The present study aimed to clarify the neuropsychological profile of the emergent diagnostic category of Mild Cognitive Impairment with Lewy bodies (MCI-LB) and determine whether domain-specific impairments such as in memory were related to deficits in domain-general cognitive processes (executive function or processing speed).
Patients (n = 83) and healthy age- and sex-matched controls (n = 34) underwent clinical and imaging assessments. Probable MCI-LB (n = 44) and MCI-Alzheimer’s disease (AD) (n = 39) were diagnosed following National Institute on Aging-Alzheimer’s Association (NIA-AA) and dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) consortium criteria. Neuropsychological measures included cognitive and psychomotor speed, executive function, working memory, and verbal and visuospatial recall.
MCI-LB scored significantly lower than MCI-AD on processing speed [Trail Making Test B: p = .03, g = .45; Digit Symbol Substitution Test (DSST): p = .04, g = .47; DSST Error Check: p < .001, g = .68] and executive function [Trail Making Test Ratio (A/B): p = .04, g = .52] tasks. MCI-AD performed worse than MCI-LB on memory tasks, specifically visuospatial (Modified Taylor Complex Figure: p = .01, g = .46) and verbal (Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test: p = .04, g = .42) delayed recall measures. Stepwise discriminant analysis correctly classified the subtype in 65.1% of MCI patients (72.7% specificity, 56.4% sensitivity). Processing speed accounted for more group-associated variance in visuospatial and verbal memory in both MCI subtypes than executive function, while no significant relationships between measures were observed in controls (all ps > .05)
MCI-LB was characterized by executive dysfunction and slowed processing speed but did not show the visuospatial dysfunction expected, while MCI-AD displayed an amnestic profile. However, there was considerable neuropsychological profile overlap and processing speed mediated performance in both MCI subtypes.
Electroencephalographic (EEG) abnormalities are greater in mild cognitive impairment (MCI) with Lewy bodies (MCI-LB) than in MCI due to Alzheimer’s disease (MCI-AD) and may anticipate the onset of dementia. We aimed to assess whether quantitative EEG (qEEG) slowing would predict a higher annual hazard of dementia in MCI across these etiologies. MCI patients (n = 92) and healthy comparators (n = 31) provided qEEG recording and underwent longitudinal clinical and cognitive follow-up. Associations between qEEG slowing, measured by increased theta/alpha ratio, and clinical progression from MCI to dementia were estimated with a multistate transition model to account for death as a competing risk, while controlling for age, cognitive function, and etiology classified by an expert consensus panel.
Over a mean follow-up of 1.5 years (SD = 0.5), 14 cases of incident dementia and 5 deaths were observed. Increased theta/alpha ratio on qEEG was associated with increased annual hazard of dementia (hazard ratio = 1.84, 95% CI: 1.01–3.35). This extends previous findings that MCI-LB features early functional changes, showing that qEEG slowing may anticipate the onset of dementia in prospectively identified MCI.
Cholinergic deficits are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and Lewy body dementia (LBD). The nucleus basalis of Meynert (NBM) provides the major source of cortical cholinergic input; studying its functional connectivity might, therefore, provide a tool for probing the cholinergic system and its degeneration in neurodegenerative diseases. Forty-six LBD patients, 29 AD patients, and 31 healthy age-matched controls underwent resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). A seed-based analysis was applied with seeds in the left and right NBM to assess functional connectivity between the NBM and the rest of the brain. We found a shift from anticorrelation in controls to positive correlations in LBD between the right/left NBM and clusters in right/left occipital cortex. Our results indicate that there is an imbalance in functional connectivity between the NBM and primary visual areas in LBD, which provides new insights into alterations within a part of the corticopetal cholinergic system that go beyond structural changes.
Dopaminergic imaging is an established biomarker for dementia with Lewy bodies, but its diagnostic accuracy at the mild cognitive impairment (MCI) stage remains uncertain.
To provide robust prospective evidence of the diagnostic accuracy of dopaminergic imaging at the MCI stage to either support or refute its inclusion as a biomarker for the diagnosis of MCI with Lewy bodies.
We conducted a prospective diagnostic accuracy study of baseline dopaminergic imaging with [123I]N-ω-fluoropropyl-2β-carbomethoxy-3β-(4-iodophenyl)nortropane single-photon emission computerised tomography (123I-FP-CIT SPECT) in 144 patients with MCI. Images were rated as normal or abnormal by a panel of experts with access to striatal binding ratio results. Follow-up consensus diagnosis based on the presence of core features of Lewy body disease was used as the reference standard.
At latest assessment (mean 2 years) 61 patients had probable MCI with Lewy bodies, 26 possible MCI with Lewy bodies and 57 MCI due to Alzheimer's disease. The sensitivity of baseline FP-CIT visual rating for probable MCI with Lewy bodies was 66% (95% CI 52–77%), specificity 88% (76–95%) and accuracy 76% (68–84%), with positive likelihood ratio 5.3.
It is over five times as likely for an abnormal scan to be found in probable MCI with Lewy bodies than MCI due to Alzheimer's disease. Dopaminergic imaging appears to be useful at the MCI stage in cases where Lewy body disease is suspected clinically.
Recently published diagnostic criteria for mild cognitive impairment with Lewy bodies (MCI-LB) include five neuropsychiatric supportive features (non-visual hallucinations, systematised delusions, apathy, anxiety and depression). We have previously demonstrated that the presence of two or more of these symptoms differentiates MCI-LB from MCI due to Alzheimer's disease (MCI-AD) with a likelihood ratio >4. The aim of this study was to replicate the findings in an independent cohort.
Participants ⩾60 years old with MCI were recruited. Each participant had a detailed clinical, cognitive and imaging assessment including FP-CIT SPECT and cardiac MIBG. The presence of neuropsychiatric supportive symptoms was determined using the Neuropsychiatric Inventory (NPI). Participants were classified as MCI-AD, possible MCI-LB and probable MCI-LB based on current diagnostic criteria. Participants with possible MCI-LB were excluded from further analysis.
Probable MCI-LB (n = 28) had higher NPI total and distress scores than MCI-AD (n = 30). In total, 59% of MCI-LB had two or more neuropsychiatric supportive symptoms compared with 9% of MCI-AD (likelihood ratio 6.5, p < 0.001). MCI-LB participants also had a significantly greater delayed recall and a lower Trails A:Trails B ratio than MCI-AD.
MCI-LB is associated with significantly greater neuropsychiatric symptoms than MCI-AD. The presence of two or more neuropsychiatric supportive symptoms as defined by MCI-LB diagnostic criteria is highly specific and moderately sensitive for a diagnosis of MCI-LB. The cognitive profile of MCI-LB differs from MCI-AD, with greater executive and lesser memory impairment, but these differences are not sufficient to differentiate MCI-LB from MCI-AD.
The ventromedial prefrontal cortex's (vMPFC) role in regulating emotions in late life depression (LLD) remains unclarified. We assessed vMPFC activation in an emotional valence blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) functional magnetic neuroimaging (fMRI) task and related the findings to extent of white matter hyperintensities (WMH). Sixteen participants with mild to moderate LLD were compared to 14 similar aged comparison participants. Participants in the scanner viewed words matched for length and arousal, indicated the perceived valence by pressing one of the three buttons i.e. “positive, negative, or neutral.” WMH volume was greater in LLD participants than comparison participants. There were no differences in activations between groups to any valence contrast. Female LLD participants showed greater activation for negative versus positive and negative versus neutral words as compared to female comparison participants. Female LLD participants respond differently to emotionally laden words compared to comparison participants. WMH could play a role in etiopathology of emotional perception in female LLD participants.
Alterations in the visual system may underlie visual hallucinations in
dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB). However, cortical excitability as measured
by transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and functional magnetic resonance
imaging (fMRI) activation of lower visual areas (V1–3) to visual stimuli
appear normal in DLB. We explored the relationship between TMS-determined
phosphene threshold and fMRI-related visual activation and found a positive
relationship between the two in controls but a negative one in DLB. This
double dissociation suggests a loss of inhibition in the visual system in
DLB, which may predispose individuals to visual dysfunction and visual
Imaging biomarkers for Alzheimer's disease include medial temporal lobe
atrophy (MTLA) depicted on computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance
imaging (MRI) and patterns of reduced metabolism on fluorodeoxyglucose
positron emission tomography (FDG-PET).
To investigate whether MTLA on head CT predicts the diagnostic usefulness
of an additional FDG-PET scan.
Participants had a clinical diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease
(n = 37) or dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB;
n = 30) or were similarly aged controls
(n = 30). We visually rated MTLA on coronally
reconstructed CT scans and, separately and blind to CT ratings, abnormal
appearances on FDG-PET scans.
Using a pre-defined cut-off of MTLA ⩾5 on the Scheltens (0–8) scale, 0/30
controls, 6/30 DLB and 23/30 Alzheimer's disease had marked MTLA. FDG-PET
performed well for diagnosing Alzheimer's disease v. DLB
in the low-MTLA group (sensitivity/specificity of 71%/79%), but in the
high-MTLA group diagnostic performance of FDG-PET was not better than
In the presence of a high degree of MTLA, the most likely diagnosis is
Alzheimer's disease, and an FDG-PET scan will probably not provide
significant diagnostic information. However, in cases without MTLA, if
the diagnosis is unclear, an FDG-PET scan may provide additional
clinically useful diagnostic information.
Individuals with Lewy body dementia (LBD) typically exhibit impairments in attentional and executive function. Current pharmacological treatments have limited efficacy, with associated side effects. Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) may represent an alternative treatment, as cognitive improvements have been demonstrated in healthy individuals. However, no studies to date have assessed the feasibility of tDCS in an LBD population. The aim of this preliminary study, therefore, was to assess the tolerability of tDCS, as well as its effects upon attentional and visuoperceptual performance, in LBD patients.
Thirteen participants completed attentional (simple reaction time, choice reaction time, and digit vigilance) and forced-choice visuoperceptual (angle and motion perception) tasks before and after one 20-min session of active tDCS (0.08 mA/cm2). The anodal electrode was applied to the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the cathodal electrode was applied to the right deltoid. Attentional (task accuracy and reaction time to correct answers) and visuoperceptual (task accuracy and difficulty) outcome measures were compared using paired t-tests.
All participants tolerated stimulation and did not report any side effects during or immediately after stimulation. Post-stimulation improvements were observed in the choice reaction time (increased percentage of correct answers; p = 0.01) and digit vigilance (reduced mean reaction time to correct answers; p = 0.02) attention tasks. Visuoperceptual task performance did not improve (all p-values > 0.05).
Attentional, but not visuoperceptual, improvements were observed following stimulation in LBD patients. Larger-scale, placebo-controlled trials are needed to confirm whether tDCS is a useful treatment option for attentional deficits in LBD.
Positron emission tomography (PET) and single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) brain imaging are widely used as diagnostic tools for suspected dementia but no studies have directly compared participant views of the two procedures. We used a range of methods to explore preferences for PET and SPECT.
Patients and controls (and accompanying carers) completed questionnaires immediately after undergoing PET and SPECT brain scans. Pulse rate data were collected during each scan. Scan attributes were prioritized using a card sorting exercise; carers and controls additionally answered willingness to pay (WTP) questions.
Few differences were found either between the scans or groups of participants, although carers marginally preferred SPECT. Diagnostic accuracy was prioritized over other scan characteristics. Mean heart rate during both scans was lower than baseline heart rate measured at home (p < 0.001).
Most participants viewed PET and SPECT scans as roughly equivalent and did not have a preference for either scan. Carer preference for SPECT is likely to reflect their desire to be with the patient (routine practice for SPECT but not for PET), suggesting that they should be able to accompany vulnerable patients throughout imaging procedures wherever possible. Pulse rate data indicated that brain imaging was no more stressful than a home visit (HV) from a researcher. The data do not support the anecdotal view that PET is a more burdensome procedure and the use of PET or SPECT scans in dementia should be based on diagnostic accuracy of the technique.
Resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) can be used to measure correlations in spontaneous low-frequency fluctuations in the blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) signal which represent functional connectivity between key brain areas.
To investigate functional connectivity with regions hypothesised to be differentially affected in dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) compared with Alzheimer's disease and controls.
Fifteen participants with probable DLB, 16 with probable Alzheimer's disease and 16 controls were scanned in the resting-state using a 3T scanner. The BOLD signal time-series of fluctuations in seed regions were correlated with all other voxels to measure functional connectivity.
Participants with DLB and Alzheimer's disease showed greater caudate and thalamic connectivity compared with controls. Those with DLB showed greater putamen connectivity compared with those with Alzheimer's disease and the controls. No regions showed less connectivity in DLB or Alzheimer's disease v. controls, or in DLB v. Alzheimer's disease.
Altered connectivity in DLB and Alzheimer's disease provides new insights into the neurobiology of these disorders and may aid in earlier diagnosis.
Background: Previous studies suggest that posterior cortical atrophy may be a useful marker for early onset Alzheimer's disease (AD). Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) is associated with less temporal lobe atrophy than AD, though posterior cortical atrophy may be greater. Therefore, we assessed whether visual rating scales for assessing posterior atrophy (PA), medial temporal lobe atrophy (MTA), and ventricular enlargement (VEn) aid in the discrimination between AD, DLB, and normal aging.
Methods: T1-weighted MRI scans acquired at 3 Tesla were visually rated for PA (range 0–3), MTA (range 0–4), and VEn (range 0–3) in older subjects with AD (n = 36), DLB (n = 35), and healthy controls (n = 35). The diagnostic utility of MTA, PA, and VEn visual ratings in distinguishing AD and DLB from controls as well as AD from DLB was investigated.
Results: Significantly higher MTA ratings were associated with AD and DLB compared to controls (p < 0.001). MTA ratings were greater in AD relative to DLB (U = 384.5, p = 0.004). For PA ratings, scores did not differ between groups (p = 0.20). VEn ratings were significantly higher in AD and DLB compared to controls (p = 0.003), but similar between AD and DLB (U = 384.5, p = 0.4).
Conclusions: Unlike findings reported in younger subjects, visual ratings for PA are not a reliable marker at older ages for distinguishing AD from controls, or for distinguishing DLB from AD. However, visual ratings of MTA and VEn may be useful markers in distinguishing both AD and DLB from older subjects without dementia.
Brain white matter changes (WMC) and depressive symptoms are linked, but the directionality of this association remains unclear.
To investigate the relationship between baseline and incident depression and progression of white matter changes.
In a longitudinal multicentre pan-European study (Leukoaraiosis and Disability in the elderly, LADIS), participants aged over 64 underwent baseline magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and clinical assessments. Repeat scans were obtained at 3 years. Depressive outcomes were assessed in terms of depressive episodes and the Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS). Progression of WMC was measured using the modified Rotterdam Progression scale.
Progression of WMC was significantly associated with incident depression during year 3 of the study (P = 0.002) and remained significant after controlling for transition to disability, baseline WMC and baseline history of depression. There was no significant association between progression of WMC and GDS score, and no significant relationship between progression of WMC and history of depression at baseline.
Our results support the vascular depression hypothesis and implicate WMC as causal in the pathogenesis of late-life depression.
Visual hallucinations and visuoperceptual deficits are common in dementia
with Lewy bodies, suggesting that cortical visual function may be
To investigate: (1) cortical visual function using functional magnetic
resonance imaging (fMRI); and (2) the nature and severity of perfusion
deficits in visual areas using arterial spin labelling (ASL)-MRI.
In total, 17 participants with dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB group) and
19 similarly aged controls were presented with simple visual stimuli
(checkerboard, moving dots, and objects) during fMRI and subsequently
underwent ASL-MRI (DLB group n = 15, control group
n = 19).
Functional activations were evident in visual areas in both the DLB and
control groups in response to checkerboard and objects stimuli but
reduced visual area V5/MT (middle temporal) activation occurred in the
DLB group in response to motion stimuli. Posterior cortical perfusion
deficits occurred in the DLB group, particularly in higher visual
Higher visual areas, particularly occipito-parietal, appear abnormal in
dementia with Lewy bodies, while there is a preservation of function in
lower visual areas (V1 and V2/3).
A limited number of studies have demonstrated changes in cerebral blood flow (CBF) in older individuals with depression, but there are considerable inconsistencies between studies.
To investigate changes in CBF using arterial spin labelling (ASL) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in people with late-life depression and in a similarly aged healthy control group.
Sixty-eight participants (30 healthy individuals, 38 with depression) underwent ASL and T1-weighted MRI scanning. For each individual, regional estimates of separate grey and white matter CBF were obtained. Group differences in CBF and their associations with clinical features were examined.
Significant increases were observed in white matter CBF in patients with depression relative to the control group (F1,65 = 9.7, P = 0.003). Grey matter CBF in lateral frontal, medial frontal, cingulate, central and parietal regions did not significantly differ between groups (F1,65≤2.1, P≥0.2). A significant correlation was found between white matter CBF and Montgomery–Åsberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) scores in depression (r’ =–0.42, P = 0.03). Further analyses revealed that compared with controls, significant elevation of white matter CBF was apparent in participants whose depression was in remission (n = 21, MADRS≤10, P = 0.001) but not in those with current depression (n = 17, MADRS≥11, P = 0.80).
Findings suggest a compensatory response to white matter pathological change or a response to (or a predictor of) successful antidepressant treatment, perhaps by facilitating neurotransmission in specific circuits and so reducing depressive symptoms.
Background: The neurobiological basis of increased risk of dementia in stroke patients is unclear, though there are several related pathological changes, including white matter hyperintensities (WMH), and medial temporal atrophy. Subcortical gray matter structures have also been implicated in dementia resulting from vascular pathology, particularly vascular dementia. This study aimed to investigate the contribution of changes in subcortical gray matter structures to post-stroke dementia (PSD).
Methods: T1- and T2-weighted images and T2-weighted fluid-attenuated inversion recovery (FLAIR) images were obtained on a 3-Tesla magnetic resonance (MR) system, in four groups aged over 75 years: post-stroke with dementia (PSD; 8), post-stroke no dementia (PSnoD; 33), Alzheimer's disease (AD; 26) and controls (30). Automated software was used to measure the volume of thalamus, putamen, caudate nucleus, and hippocampus as well as total WMH volume. The number of subcortical lacunes was also counted.
Results: The number of caudate lacunes was higher in the PSnoD group, compared with AD (p = 0.029) and controls (p = 0.019). The putamen volume was smaller in the stroke and AD groups, when compared with controls. In the whole stroke group, putamen lacunes were correlated with impairment in memory (Rey test; ρ = −0.365; p = 0.031), while WMH and hippocampal volume both correlated with global dysfunction.
Conclusion: Our findings implicate a variety of neurobiological substrates of dementia, such as small vessel disease and Alzheimer pathology, which develop after stroke in an old older population, with a contribution from subcortical brain structures.