Genetic effects on longitudinal cognitive decline during the early stages of Alzheimer's disease

Sci Rep. 2021 Oct 6;11(1):19853. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-99310-z.


Cognitive decline in early-stage Alzheimer's disease (AD) may depend on genetic variability. In the Swedish BioFINDER study, we used polygenic scores (PGS) (for AD, intelligence, and educational attainment) to predict longitudinal cognitive change (measured by mini-mental state examination (MMSE) [primary outcome] and other cognitive tests) over a mean of 4.2 years. We included 260 β-amyloid (Aβ) negative cognitively unimpaired (CU) individuals, 121 Aβ-positive CU (preclinical AD), 50 Aβ-negative mild cognitive impairment (MCI) patients, and 127 Aβ-positive MCI patients (prodromal AD). Statistical significance was determined at Bonferroni corrected p value < 0.05. The PGS for intelligence (beta = 0.1, p = 2.9e-02) was protective against decline in MMSE in CU and MCI participants regardless of Aβ status. The polygenic risk score for AD (beta = - 0.12, p = 9.4e-03) was correlated with the rate of change in MMSE and was partially mediated by Aβ-pathology (mediation effect 20%). There was no effect of education PGS on cognitive measures. Genetic variants associated with intelligence mitigate cognitive decline independent of Aβ-pathology, while effects of genetic variants associated with AD are partly mediated by Aβ-pathology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Algorithms
  • Alzheimer Disease / complications*
  • Alzheimer Disease / diagnosis
  • Alzheimer Disease / etiology*
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / genetics
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / metabolism
  • Biomarkers
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / diagnosis*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / etiology*
  • Computational Biology / methods
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Genetic Association Studies
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Genetic Variation
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Genetic
  • Multifactorial Inheritance
  • Phenotype
  • Time Factors


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Biomarkers