Beta-amyloid (Aβ) positive individuals hyper-activate brain regions compared to those not at-risk; however, hyperactivation is then thought to diminish as Alzheimer's disease symptomatology begins, evidencing eventual hypoactivation. It remains unclear when in the disease staging this transition occurs. We hypothesized that differential levels of amyloid burden would be associated with both increased and decreased activation (i.e., a quadratic trajectory) in cognitively-normal adults. Participants (N = 62; aged 51-94) underwent an fMRI spatial distance-judgment task and Amyvid-PET scanning. Voxelwise regression modeled age, linear-Aβ, and quadratic-Aβ as predictors of BOLD activation to difficult spatial distance-judgments. A significant quadratic-Aβ effect on BOLD response explained differential activation in bilateral angular/temporal and medial prefrontal cortices, such that individuals with slightly elevated Aβ burden exhibited hyperactivation whereas even higher Aβ burden was then associated with hypoactivation. Importantly, in high-Aβ individuals, Aβ load moderated the effect of BOLD activation on behavioral task performance, where in lower-elevation, greater deactivation was associated with better accuracy, but in higher-elevation, greater deactivation was associated with poorer accuracy during the task. This study reveals a dose-response, quadratic relationship between increasing Aβ burden and alterations in BOLD activation to cognitive challenge in cognitively-normal individuals that suggests 1) the shift from hyper-to hypo-activation may begin early in disease staging, 2) depends, in part, on degree of Aβ burden, and 3) tracks cognitive performance.
Keywords: Aging; Beta-amyloid; Cognition; Nonlinear BOLD activation; Preclinical Alzheimer's disease; fMRI.
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