Objective: To investigate the associations among β-amyloid (Aβ), cortical thickness, and episodic memory in a cohort of cognitively normal to mildly impaired individuals at increased risk of vascular disease.
Methods: In 67 subjects specifically recruited to span a continuum of cognitive function and vascular risk, we measured brain Aβ deposition using [(11)C] Pittsburgh compound B-PET imaging and cortical thickness using MRI. Episodic memory was tested using a standardized composite score of verbal memory, and vascular risk was quantified using the Framingham Coronary Risk Profile index.
Results: Increased Aβ was associated with cortical thinning, notably in frontoparietal regions. This relationship was strongest in persons with high Aβ deposition. Increased Aβ was also associated with lower episodic memory performance. Cortical thickness was found to mediate the relationship between Aβ and memory performance. While age had a marginal effect on these associations, the relationship between Aβ and cortical thickness was eliminated after controlling for vascular risk except when examined in only Pittsburgh compound B-positive subjects, in whom Aβ remained associated with thinner cortex in precuneus and occipital lobe. In addition, only the precuneus was found to mediate the relationship between Aβ and memory after controlling for vascular risk.
Conclusion: These results suggest strong links among Aβ, cortical thickness, and memory. They highlight that, in individuals without dementia, vascular risk also contributes to cortical thickness and influences the relationships among Aβ, cortical thickness, and memory.