To investigate the effect of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) abnormalities on the rate of decline in everyday function in normal aging, mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and mild Alzheimer disease (AD).
Immunoassays of total tau (t-tau), tau phosphorylated at threonine 181 (p-tau181), and β-amyloid 1-42 (Aβ42) concentrations were performed in CSF obtained from participants in the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative. Random effects regressions were used to examine the relationship among CSF abnormalities, cognitive impairment (assessed with the Alzheimer Disease Assessment Scale–cognitive subscale [ADAS-Cog]), and functional decline (assessed with the Pfeffer Functional Activities Questionnaire) and to determine whether the impact of CSF abnormalities on functional decline is mediated by cognitive impairment.
Fifty-eight sites in the United States and Canada.
One hundred fourteen cognitively intact adults, 195 patients with MCI, and 100 patients with mild AD.
Main Outcome Measure
Decline in the Pfeffer Functional Activities Questionnaire score.
Abnormalities in all CSF analytes were associated with functional decline in MCI, and all but the t-tau:Aβ42 ratio were associated with functional decline in controls. No abnormal CSF analyte was associated with functional decline in AD. Among controls, p-tau181 concentration was the most sensitive to functional decline, whereas in MCI it was Aβ42 concentration. Cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers were uniformly more sensitive to functional decline than the ADAS-Cog score among controls and variably so in MCI, whereas the ADAS-Cog score was unequivocally more sensitive than CSF biomarkers in AD. The impact of CSF abnormalities on functional decline in MCI was partially mediated by their effect on cognitive status. Across all diagnostic groups, persons with both tau and Aβ42 abnormalities exhibited the steepest rate of functional decline.
Abnormalities in CSF are associated with functional decline and thus with future development of AD in controls and patients with MCI. However, they do not predict further functional degradation in patients with AD. Persons with comorbid tau and Aβ42 abnormalities are at greatest risk of functional loss.