Physical activity and cognitive and imaging biomarkers of Alzheimer's disease in down syndrome

Neurobiol Aging. 2021 Nov:107:118-127. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2021.07.016. Epub 2021 Jul 29.


Adults with Down syndrome (DS) are at risk for Alzheimer's disease. Despite sharing trisomy 21, however, there is variability in the age of disease onset. This variability may mean that other factors, such as lifestyle, influence cognitive aging and disease timing. The present study assessed the association between everyday life physical activity using an actigraph accelerometer and cognitive functioning and early Alzheimer's disease pathology via positron emission tomography amyloid-β and tau and diffusion tension imaging measures of white matter integrity in 61 non-demented adults with DS. Percent time in sedentary behavior and in moderate-to-vigorous activity were associated (negatively and positively, respectively) with cognitive functioning (r = -.472 to .572, p < 0.05). Neither sedentary behavior nor moderate-to-vigorous activity were associated with amyloid-β or tau, but both were associated with white matter integrity in the superior and inferior longitudinal fasciculus (Fractional Anisotropy: r = -.397 to -.419, p < 0.05; Mean Diffusivity: r = .400, p < 0.05). Longitudinal studies are needed to determine if physical activity promotes healthy aging in DS.

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; Biomarkers; Cognitive functioning; Down syndrome; Physical activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age of Onset
  • Alzheimer Disease / diagnosis*
  • Alzheimer Disease / etiology*
  • Alzheimer Disease / psychology*
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / metabolism
  • Cognition*
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging
  • Down Syndrome / complications*
  • Down Syndrome / psychology*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuroimaging
  • Positron-Emission Tomography
  • Risk
  • Sedentary Behavior
  • White Matter / diagnostic imaging
  • White Matter / metabolism
  • White Matter / pathology
  • tau Proteins / metabolism


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • tau Proteins