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Neurology. 2000 Aug 8;55(3):370-6.

"Preclinical" AD revisited: neuropathology of cognitively normal older adults.

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  • 1Sanders-Brown Center on Aging and Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, Department of Neurology, University of Kentucky College of Medicine, Lexington 40536, USA.



To classify neuropathologic alterations in the brains of nondemented older adults using current sets of criteria for AD.


AD neuropathologic alterations are found in the brains of some nondemented elderly subjects and suggest the possibility of presymptomatic AD. Three sets of guidelines have been developed to classify AD using senile plaques, neuritic plaques, and neurofibrillary tangles (NFT).


Neuropathologic changes in 59 older adults followed longitudinally with a standard battery of mental status measures were investigated using Khachaturian, Consortium to Establish a Registry for Alzheimer's Disease (CERAD), and National Institute on Aging-Reagan Institute (NIA-RI) guidelines. AD neuropathologic markers were evaluated in neocortical and allocortical regions. Cases were categorized as neuropathologically "normal" or "AD-like" and compared for possible mental status differences.


Between 11 and 49% of cases met one or more of the three classifications of AD. With adjustments for multiple comparisons, only NFT in hippocampal CA1 region were associated with autopsy age, suggesting that this may represent a pathologic process associated with normal brain aging. Using the NIA-RI guidelines, subjects in the AD-like group performed less well on the immediate paragraph recall and word-list delayed recall than their counterparts who did not meet these guidelines.


These data indicate that the prevalence of "preclinical" AD in our population is relatively low based on the NIA-RI classification. Although many subjects had AD-like changes based on CERAD and Khachaturian guidelines, they exhibited no differences in mental performance, suggesting that the aging brain may be able to withstand such structural changes without meaningful impact on mental functioning.

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