CSF biomarkers for mild cognitive impairment

J Intern Med. 2004 Sep;256(3):224-34. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2796.2004.01368.x.


A correct clinical diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease (AD) early in the course of the disease is of importance to initiate symptomatic treatment with acetylcholine esterase inhibitors, and will be even more important when disease-arresting drugs, such as beta-sheet breakers or gamma-secretase inhibitors, will reach the clinic. However, there is no clinical method to determine if a patient with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) has incipient AD, i.e. will progress to AD with dementia, or have a benign form of MCI without progression. Thus, there is a great clinical need for diagnostic biomarkers to identify incipient AD in MCI cases. Three cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) biomarkers; total-tau (T-tau), phospho-tau (P-tau) and the 42 amino acid form of beta-amyloid (Abeta42) have been evaluated in numerous scientific papers. These CSF markers have high sensitivity to differentiate early and incipient AD from normal ageing, depression, alcohol dementia and Parkinson's disease, but lower specificity against other dementias, such as frontotemporal and Lewy body dementia. However, if the CSF biomarkers are used in the right clinical context, i.e. together with the cumulative information from the clinical examination, standard laboratory tests and brain-imaging techniques [single photon emission tomography (SPECT) and magnetic resonance tomography (MRT) scans], they may have a role in the clinical evaluation of MCI cases.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Alzheimer Disease / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Alzheimer Disease / diagnosis
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Biomarkers / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Cognition Disorders / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • tau Proteins / cerebrospinal fluid*


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Biomarkers
  • tau Proteins