PublicationsResilience and resistance to the accumulation of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in centenarians
INTRODUCTION: With increasing age, neuropathological substrates associated with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) accumulate in brains of cognitively healthy individuals-are they resilient, or resistant to AD-associated neuropathologies?
METHODS: In 85 centenarian brains, we correlated NIA (amyloid) stages, Braak (neurofibrillary tangle) stages, and CERAD (neuritic plaque) scores with cognitive performance close to death as determined by Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) scores. We assessed centenarian brains against 2131 brains from AD patients, non-AD demented, and non-demented individuals in an age continuum ranging from 16 to 100+ years.
RESULTS: With age, brains from non-demented individuals reached the NIA and Braak stages observed in AD patients, while CERAD scores remained lower. In centenarians, NIA stages varied (22.4% were the highest stage 3), Braak stages rarely exceeded stage IV (5.9% were V), and CERAD scores rarely exceeded 2 (4.7% were 3); within these distributions, we observed no correlation with the MMSE (NIA: P = 0.60; Braak: P = 0.08; CERAD: P = 0.16).
DISCUSSION: Cognitive health can be maintained despite the accumulation of high levels of AD-related neuropathological substrates.
HIGHLIGHTS: Cognitively healthy elderly have AD neuropathology levels similar to AD patients. AD neuropathology loads do not correlate with cognitive performance in centenarians. Some centenarians are resilient to the highest levels of AD neuropathology.