CSF neurofilament light differs in neurodegenerative diseases and predicts severity and survival

Neurology. 2014 Nov 18;83(21):1945-53. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000001015. Epub 2014 Oct 22.


Objectives: We hypothesized that CSF neurofilament light (NFL) levels would be elevated in dementias with subcortical involvement, including vascular dementia (VaD), but less elevated in dementias primarily affecting gray matter structures, such as Alzheimer disease (AD), and that elevated CSF NFL would correlate with disease severity and shorter survival time irrespective of clinical diagnosis.

Methods: We included 3,356 individuals with dementia who had CSF NFL analyzed in our laboratory between 2005 and 2012. Clinical diagnoses and Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) scores were obtained from the Swedish Dementia Registry, and in selected cases (n = 478), date of death from the Swedish Mortality Registry.

Results: CSF NFL differed among clinical diagnoses, with the highest levels seen in frontotemporal dementia, VaD, and mixed AD and VaD. Early-onset AD (younger than 65 years) had the lowest levels. High CSF NFL correlated with low MMSE score and short survival time irrespective of diagnosis, and was also particularly evident in AD.

Conclusions: CSF NFL differs among different neurodegenerative diseases and is especially high in dementias engaging subcortical brain regions, such as VaD and mixed AD and VaD, but also in frontotemporal dementia. The association of high CSF NFL levels with disease severity and short survival supports the notion that high CSF NFL levels indicate more aggressive disease processes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biomarkers / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / diagnosis
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / mortality*
  • Neurofilament Proteins / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Registries
  • Severity of Illness Index*
  • Survival Rate / trends


  • Biomarkers
  • Neurofilament Proteins
  • neurofilament protein L