Neurobiology of Aging

“Spatial cognition is associated with levels of phosphorylated-tau and β-amyloid in clinically normal older adults”

Authors: Gillian Coughlan, Brennan DeSouza, Peter Zhukovsky, Michael Hornberger, Cheryl Grady, Rachel F Buckley; European Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease (EPAD) Consortium


Spatial cognition is associated with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) biomarkers in the symptomatic stages of the disease. We investigated whether cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) biomarkers (phosphorylated-tau [p-tau] and β-amyloid) are associated with poorer spatial cognition in clinically normal older adults. Participants were 1875 clinically normal adults (age 67.8 [8.5] years) from the European Prevention of Alzheimer’s Dementia Consortium. Mixed effect models assessed the cross-sectional association between p-tau181, β-amyloid1-42 (Aβ1-42) and p-tau181/Aβ1-42 ratio and spatial cognition measured using semi-automated Supermarket Task and the 4 Mountains Task. Levels of p-tau181, Aβ1-42, and p-tau181/Aβ1-42 ratio were significantly associated with spatial cognition scores on both tasks. The p-tau181/Aβ1-42 ratio showed the largest effect sizes (β = -0.04/0.05, p < 0.001). Lower entorhinal cortical volume was associated with poorer outcomes on both tasks (β = 0.06, p < 0.002) and accounted for 18%-22% of the direct association between p-tau181 and spatial cognition scores. In conclusion, degeneration of the entorhinal cortex mediates a significant proportion of the association between p-tau181 and spatial assessments in cognitively normal adults. Future studies should focus on increasing the sensitivity of digital spatial assessments.

DOI: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2023.06.016

Published online: 29 June 2023 in the Journal Neurobiology of Aging