Objective: Extensive cortical β-amyloid (Aβ positivity) has been linked to cognitive decline, but the clinical significance of elevations in Aβ within the negative range is unknown.
Methods: We examined amyloid and cognitive trajectories (memory, executive function) in 142 cognitively normal older individuals enrolled in the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative who were Aβ-negative at baseline and who had at least 2 [18F]-florbetapir PET scans over 3.9 ± 1.4 years. We determined whether Aβ accumulation was associated with longitudinal changes in memory or executive function.
Results: Among baseline-negative individuals, florbetapir slope (mean annual increase 0.002 ± 0.008 standardized uptake value ratio units/y) was not related to age, sex, education, APOE4 status, baseline memory or executive function, temporoparietal glucose metabolism, baseline hippocampal volume, or hippocampal volume change; but it was related to higher baseline cortical florbetapir, indicating that Aβ accumulation was ongoing at baseline in those who accumulated during the study. Over the course of follow-up, 13 individuals converted to florbetapir+ and 14 nearly nonoverlapping individuals converted to mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer disease. Amyloid accumulation among baseline-negative individuals was associated with poorer longitudinal memory performance (p = 0.019), but it was not associated with changes in executive function. Reducing the sample to individuals with at least 3 timepoints to estimate the florbetapir slope strengthened the relationship further between florbetapir accumulation and memory decline (p = 0.007).
Conclusions: Memory decline accompanies Aβ accumulation in otherwise healthy, Aβ-negative older adults. Amyloid increases within the negative range may represent the earliest detectable indication of pathology with domain-specific cognitive consequences.
© 2018 American Academy of Neurology.