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Cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers of neurofibrillary tangles and synaptic dysfunction are associated with longitudinal decline in white matter connectivity: A multi-resolution graph analysis.

Journal article
Authors Won Hwa Kim
Annie M Racine
Nagesh Adluru
Seong Jae Hwang
Kaj Blennow
Henrik Zetterberg
Cynthia M Carlsson
Sanjay Asthana
Rebecca L Koscik
Sterling C Johnson
Barbara B Bendlin
Vikas Singh
Published in NeuroImage. Clinical
Volume 21
ISSN 2213-1582
Publication year 2019
Published at Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Psychiatry and Neurochemistry
Language en
Subject categories Neurochemistry


In addition to the development of beta amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, Alzheimer's disease (AD) involves the loss of connecting structures including degeneration of myelinated axons and synaptic connections. However, the extent to which white matter tracts change longitudinally, particularly in the asymptomatic, preclinical stage of AD, remains poorly characterized. In this study we used a novel graph wavelet algorithm to determine the extent to which microstructural brain changes evolve in concert with the development of AD neuropathology as observed using CSF biomarkers. A total of 118 participants with at least two diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) scans and one lumbar puncture for CSF were selected from two observational and longitudinally followed cohorts. CSF was assayed for pathology specific to AD (Aβ42 and phosphorylated-tau), neurodegeneration (total-tau), axonal degeneration (neurofilament light chain protein; NFL), and synaptic degeneration (neurogranin). Tractography was performed on DTI scans to obtain structural connectivity networks with 160 nodes where the nodes correspond to specific brain regions of interest (ROIs) and their connections were defined by DTI metrics (i.e., fractional anisotropy (FA) and mean diffusivity (MD)). For the analysis, we adopted a multi-resolution graph wavelet technique called Wavelet Connectivity Signature (WaCS) which derives higher order representations from DTI metrics at each brain connection. Our statistical analysis showed interactions between the CSF measures and the MRI time interval, such that elevated CSF biomarkers and longer time were associated with greater longitudinal changes in white matter microstructure (decreasing FA and increasing MD). Specifically, we detected a total of 17 fiber tracts whose WaCS representations showed an association between longitudinal decline in white matter microstructure and both CSF p-tau and neurogranin. While development of neurofibrillary tangles and synaptic degeneration are cortical phenomena, the results show that they are also associated with degeneration of underlying white matter tracts, a process which may eventually play a role in the development of cognitive decline and dementia.

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