Medial temporal tau predicts memory decline in cognitively unimpaired elderly

Brain Commun. 2022 Dec 9;5(1):fcac325. doi: 10.1093/braincomms/fcac325. eCollection 2023.


Alzheimer's disease can be detected in living people using in vivo biomarkers of amyloid-β and tau, even in the absence of cognitive impairment during the preclinical phase. [18F]-MK-6420 is a high-affinity PET tracer that quantifies tau neurofibrillary tangles, but its ability to predict cognitive changes associated with early Alzheimer's disease symptoms, such as memory decline, is unclear. Here, we assess the prognostic accuracy of baseline [18F]-MK-6420 tau-PET for predicting longitudinal memory decline in asymptomatic elderly individuals. In a longitudinal observational study, we evaluated a cohort of cognitively normal elderly participants (n = 111) from the translational biomarkers in ageing and dementia study (data collected between October 2017 and July 2020, with a follow-up period of 12 months). All participants underwent tau-PET with [18F]-MK-6420 and amyloid-β PET with [18F]-AZD-4694. The exclusion criteria included the presence of head trauma, stroke or other neurological disorders. There were 111 eligible participants selected based on the availability of amyloid-β PET, tau-PET, MRI and APOEɛ4 genotyping. Among these participants, the mean standard deviation age was 70.1 (8.6) years; 20 (18%) were tau-PET-positive and 71 of 111 (63.9%) were women. A significant association between the baseline Braak Stages I-II [18F]-MK-6240 standardized uptake value ratio positivity and change in composite memory score were observed at the 12-month follow-up, after correcting for age, sex and years of education [logical memory and Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test, standardized beta = -0.52 (-0.82-0.21), P < 0.001, for dichotomized tau-PET and -1.22 (-1.84-(-0.61)], P < 0.0001, for continuous tau-PET]. Moderate cognitive decline was observed for A + T + over the follow-up period, whereas no significant change was observed for A-T+, A + T- and A-T-, although it should be noted that the A-T + group was small. Our results indicate that baseline tau neurofibrillary tangle pathology is associated with longitudinal changes in memory function, supporting the use of [18F]-MK-6420 PET to predict the likelihood of asymptomatic elderly individuals experiencing future memory decline. Overall, [18F]-MK-6420 PET is a promising tool for predicting memory decline in older adults without cognitive impairment at baseline. This is of critical relevance as the field is shifting towards a biological model of Alzheimer's disease defined by the aggregation of pathologic tau. Therefore, early detection of tau pathology using [18F]-MK-6420 PET provides us with hope that living patients with Alzheimer's disease may be diagnosed during the preclinical phase before it is too late.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; Braak I–II; PET; memory; tau.