Background: The influence of reserve variables and Alzheimer's disease (AD) biomarkers on cognitive test performance has been fairly well-characterized. However, less is known about the influence of these factors on "non-cognitive" outcomes, including functional abilities and mood. Objective: We examined whether cognitive and brain reserve variables mediate how AD biomarker levels in cognitively normal persons predict future changes in function, mood, and neuropsychiatric behavior. Methods: Non-cognitive outcomes were examined in 328 individuals 50 years and older enrolled in ongoing studies of aging and dementia at the Knight Alzheimer Disease Research Center (ADRC). All participants were cognitively normal at baseline (Clinical Dementia Rating [CDR] 0), completed cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and structural neuroimaging studies within one year of baseline, and were followed for an average of 4.6 annual visits. Linear mixed effects models explored how cognitive reserve and brain reserve variables mediate the relationships between AD biomarker levels and changes in function, mood, and neuropsychiatric behavior in cognitively normal participants. Results: Education levels did not have a significant effect on predicting non-cognitive decline. However, participants with smaller brain volumes exhibited the worst outcomes on measures of mood, functional abilities, and behavioral disturbance. This effect was most pronounced in individuals who also had abnormal CSF biomarkers. Conclusions: The findings suggest that brain reserve plays a stronger, or earlier, role than cognitive reserve in protecting against non-cognitive impairment in AD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1055-1064
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Alzheimer's Disease
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2016


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • biomarkers
  • cognitive reserve
  • dementia


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