Subjective Cognitive Decline Is Associated With Altered Default Mode Network Connectivity in Individuals With a Family History of Alzheimer's Disease

Biol Psychiatry Cogn Neurosci Neuroimaging. 2018 May;3(5):463-472. doi: 10.1016/j.bpsc.2017.11.012. Epub 2017 Dec 14.


Background: Both subjective cognitive decline (SCD) and a family history of Alzheimer's disease (AD) portend risk of brain abnormalities and progression to dementia. Posterior default mode network (pDMN) connectivity is altered early in the course of AD. It is unclear whether SCD predicts similar outcomes in cognitively normal individuals with a family history of AD.

Methods: We studied 124 asymptomatic individuals with a family history of AD (age 64 ± 5 years). Participants were categorized as having SCD if they reported that their memory was becoming worse (SCD+). We used extensive neuropsychological assessment to investigate five different cognitive domain performances at baseline (n = 124) and 1 year later (n = 59). We assessed interconnectivity among three a priori defined ROIs: pDMN, anterior ventral DMN, medial temporal memory system (MTMS), and the connectivity of each with the rest of brain.

Results: Sixty-eight (55%) participants reported SCD. Baseline cognitive performance was comparable between groups (all false discovery rate-adjusted p values > .05). At follow-up, immediate and delayed memory improved across groups, but the improvement in immediate memory was reduced in SCD+ compared with SCD- (all false discovery rate-adjusted p values < .05). When compared with SCD-, SCD+ subjects showed increased pDMN-MTMS connectivity (false discovery rate-adjusted p < .05). Higher connectivity between the MTMS and the rest of the brain was associated with better baseline immediate memory, attention, and global cognition, whereas higher MTMS and pDMN-MTMS connectivity were associated with lower immediate memory over time (all false discovery rate-adjusted p values < .05).

Conclusions: SCD in cognitively normal individuals is associated with diminished immediate memory practice effects and a brain connectivity pattern that mirrors early AD-related connectivity failure.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; Cognition; Default mode network connectivity; Family history of dementia; Resting-state functional MRI; Subjective cognitive decline.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Alzheimer Disease / psychology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / psychology*
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neural Pathways / physiopathology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests

Grants and funding