Higher cerebrospinal fluid tau is associated with history of traumatic brain injury and reduced processing speed in Vietnam-era veterans: A Department of Defense Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (DOD-ADNI) study

Alzheimers Dement (Amst). 2021 Oct 14;13(1):e12239. doi: 10.1002/dad2.12239. eCollection 2021.


Introduction: Our goal was to determine whether cognitive and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) markers of tau and amyloid beta 1-42 (Aβ42) differ between Vietnam-era veterans with and without history of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and whether TBI moderates the association between CSF markers and neurocognitive functioning.

Methods: A total of 102 male participants (52 TBI, 50 military controls [MCs]; mean age = 68) were included. Levels of CSF Aβ42, tau phosphorylated at the threonine 181 position (p-tau), and total tau (t-tau) were quantified. Group differences in CSF markers and cognition as well as the moderating effect of TBI on CSF and cognition associations were explored.

Results: Relative to MCs, the TBI group showed significantly higher p-tau (P = .01) and t-tau (P = .02), but no differences in amyloid (P = .09). TBI history moderated the association between CSF tau and performance on a measure of processing speed (t-tau: P = .04; p-tau: P = .02).

Discussion: Tau accumulation may represent a mechanism of dementia risk in older veterans with remote TBI.

Keywords: cerebrospinal fluid; tau; traumatic brain injury.