Memory complaints are related to Alzheimer disease pathology in older persons

Neurology. 2006 Nov 14;67(9):1581-5. doi: 10.1212/01.wnl.0000242734.16663.09.


Objective: To study the relationship between Alzheimer disease (AD) pathology and memory complaints proximate to death.

Methods: A group of 90 older persons underwent detailed clinical evaluations and brain autopsy at death. The evaluations included administration of questions on subjective memory complaints and clinical classification of dementia and AD. On postmortem examination, neuritic plaques, diffuse plaques, and neurofibrillary tangles in tissue samples from five cortical regions were counted, and a summary measure of overall AD pathology was derived. In addition, amyloid load and tau tangles were quantified in eight regions.

Results: In multiple linear regression models adjusted for age, sex, and education, memory complaints were associated with AD pathology, including both amyloid and tau tangles. Subsequent analyses demonstrated that the relationship between memory complaints and AD pathology was present in those with and without dementia, and could not be explained by the potentially confounding effects of depressive symptoms or coexisting common chronic health problems.

Conclusion: Memory complaints in older persons may indicate self awareness of a degenerative process.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / pathology
  • Alzheimer Disease / complications*
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology*
  • Alzheimer Disease / physiopathology
  • Autopsy
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Memory Disorders / etiology*
  • Neurofibrillary Tangles / pathology
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Plaque, Amyloid / pathology
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Sex Factors