Longer periods are needed to examine how biomarker changes occur relative to incident sporadic cognitive impairment. We evaluated molecular (CSF and imaging), structural, and cognitive biomarkers to predict incident cognitive impairment and examined longitudinal biomarker changes before and after symptomatic onset. Data from participants who were cognitively normal, underwent amyloid imaging using Pittsburgh compound B and/or CSF studies, and at least two clinical assessments were used. Stepwise Cox proportional hazards models tested associations of molecular (Pittsburgh compound B; CSF amyloid-β 42, tau, ptau 181, tau/amyloid-β 42, ptau 181 /amyloid-β 42), structural (normalized hippocampal volume, normalized whole brain volume), and cognitive (Animal Naming, Trail Making A, Trail Making B, Selective Reminding Test - Free Recall) biomarkers with time to Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR) > 0. Cognitively normal participants (n = 664), aged 42 to 90 years (mean ± standard deviation = 71.4 ± 9.2) were followed for up to 16.9 years (mean ± standard deviation = 6.2 ± 3.5 years). Of these, 145 (21.8%) participants developed a CDR > 0. At time of incident cognitive impairment, molecular, structural, and cognitive markers were abnormal for CDR > 0 compared to CDR = 0. Linear mixed models indicated rates of change in molecular biomarkers were similar for CDR = 0 and CDR > 0, suggesting that the separation in values between CDR = 0 and CDR > 0 must have occurred prior to the observation period. Rate of decline for structural and cognitive biomarkers was faster for CDR > 0 compared to CDR = 0 (P < 0.0001). Structural and cognitive biomarkers for CDR > 0 diverged from CDR 0 at 9 and 12 years before incident cognitive impairment, respectively. Within those who developed CDR > 0, a natural separation occurred for Pittsburgh compound B values. In particular, CDR > 0 who had at least one APOE ϵ4 allele had higher, and more rapid increase in Pittsburgh compound B, while APOE ϵ2 was observed to have slower increases in Pittsburgh compound B. Of molecular biomarker-positive participants followed for at least 10 years (n = 16-23), ∼70% remained CDR = 0 over the follow-up period. In conclusion, conversion from cognitively normal to CDR > 0 is characterized by not only the magnitude of molecular biomarkers but also rate of change in cognitive and structural biomarkers. Findings support theoretical models of biomarker changes seen during transition to cognitive impairment using longitudinal data and provide a potential time for changes seen during this transition. These findings support the use of molecular biomarkers for trial inclusion and cognitive/structural biomarkers for evaluating trial outcomes. Finally, results support a potential role for APOE ϵin modulating amyloid accumulation in CDR > 0 with APOE ϵ4 being deleterious and APOE ϵ2 protective.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3233-3248
Number of pages16
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2018


  • APOE
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • amyloid imaging
  • biomarkers
  • cerebrospinal fluid


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