Plasma Aβ and neurofilament light chain are associated with cognitive and physical function decline in non-dementia older adults

Alzheimers Res Ther. 2020 Oct 8;12(1):128. doi: 10.1186/s13195-020-00697-0.


Background: Cognition is closely associated with physical function. Although high brain amyloid-β (Aβ) deposition and neurofilament light chain (NfL) are associated with cognitive and gait speed decline, relationships of combined plasma Aβ and NfL profiles with cognitive and physical functions in older adults remain unknown. The research aim of this study was to investigate the prospective associations of combined plasma Aβ and NfL profiles with cognitive and physical functions in older adults.

Methods: Participants (n = 452, aged 76 ± 5 years) who had both plasma Aβ and NfL data collected from the Multidomain Alzheimer's Preventive Trial (MAPT, May 2008 to April 2016) were included in the current study. These participants were from four MAPT groups (multidomain interventions [physical activity and nutritional counselling, and cognitive training], omega-3 supplementation, multidomain plus omega-3 supplementation and control group) and had received a 3-year intervention, followed by a 2-year observational follow-up. Cognitive function was evaluated as Mini-Mental State Examination and composite cognitive score (CCS, a mean Z-score combining four cognitive tests). Physical function was evaluated as gait speed (4-m usual-pace walk test) and chair-stand time (5-time maximal chair-stand test). Cognitive and physical function data measured at the time of and after blood Aβ and NfL tests were used for analysis. Participants with plasma Aβ42/Aβ40 ratios lower than 0.107 and NfL levels greater than 93.04 pg/ml were classified as Aβ+ and NfL+. Multivariable regressions and mixed-effects linear models were used for the analysis.

Results: At the cross-sectional level, no significant association was found between Aβ+NfL+ and cognitive or physical function after controlling for age, sex, body mass index, education level and MAPT group. Evaluating longitudinal changes, participants with Aβ+NfL+ had greater annual declines in the CCS (β = - 0.11, 95%CI [- 0.17, - 0.05]) and gait speed (β = - 0.03, 95%CI [- 0.05, - 0.005]). After adjusting for APOE ɛ4 genotype, Aβ+NfL+ was associated with a greater decline only in the CCS (β = - 0.09, 95%CI [- 0.15, - 0.02]).

Conclusions: Combined low plasma Aβ42/Aβ40 ratio and high plasma NfL level was associated with greater declines in cognition and gait speed over time, providing further evidence of the links between cognitive and physical function.

Trial registration: [ NCT00672685 ].

Keywords: Amyloid-β; Cognitive function; Neurofilament light chain; Physical function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Cognition
  • Cognitive Dysfunction*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Intermediate Filaments*
  • Prospective Studies


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides

Associated data