Beta-amyloid moderates the relationship between cortical thickness and attentional control in middle- and older-aged adults

Neurobiol Aging. 2022 Apr:112:181-190. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2021.12.012. Epub 2022 Jan 10.


Although often unmeasured in studies of cognition, many older adults possess Alzheimer disease (AD) pathologies such as beta-amyloid (Aβ) deposition, despite being asymptomatic. We were interested in examining whether the behavior-structure relationship observed in later life was altered by the presence of preclinical AD pathology. A total of 511 cognitively unimpaired adults completed magnetic resonance imaging and three attentional control tasks; a subset (n = 396) also underwent Aβ-positron emissions tomography. A vertex-wise model was conducted to spatially represent the relationship between cortical thickness and average attentional control accuracy, while moderation analysis examined whether Aβ deposition impacted this relationship. First, we found that reduced cortical thickness in temporal, medial- and lateral-parietal, and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, predicted worse performance on the attention task composite. Subsequent moderation analyses observed that levels of Aβ significantly influence the relationship between cortical thickness and attentional control. Our results support the hypothesis that preclinical AD, as measured by Aβ deposition, is partially driving what would otherwise be considered general aging in a cognitively normal adult population.

Keywords: Alzheimer disease; Amyloid; Attention; Cognition; Control; Free surfer; Moderation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alzheimer Disease* / diagnostic imaging
  • Alzheimer Disease* / pathology
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides* / metabolism
  • Attention
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Middle Aged
  • Positron-Emission Tomography


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides