Plasma Tau Association with Brain Atrophy in Mild Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer's Disease

for the Alzheimer Disease Neuroimaging Initiative

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Background: Peripheral (plasma) and central (cerebrospinal fluid, CSF) measures of tau are higher in Alzheimer's disease (AD) relative to prodromal stages and controls. While elevated CSF tau concentrations have been shown to be associated with lower grey matter density (GMD) in AD-specific regions, this correlation has yet to be examined for plasma in a large study. Objective: Determine the neuroanatomical correlates of plasma tau using voxel-based analysis. Methods: Cross-sectional data for 508 ADNI participants were collected for clinical, plasma total-tau (t-tau), CSF amyloid (Aβ42) and tau, and MRI variables. The relationship between plasma tau and GMD and between CSF t-tau and GMD were assessed on a voxel-by-voxel basis using regression models. Age, sex, APOE ϵ4 status, diagnosis, and total intracranial volume were used as covariates where appropriate. Participants were defined as amyloid positive (Aβ) if CSF Aβ42 was <192 pg/mL. Results: Plasma tau was negatively correlated with GMD in the medial temporal lobe (MTL), precuneus, thalamus, and striatum. The associations with thalamus and striatum were independent of diagnosis. A negative correlation also existed between plasma tau and GMD in Aβ participants in the MTL, precuneus, and frontal lobe. When compared to CSF t-tau, plasma tau showed a notably different associated brain atrophy pattern, with only small overlapping regions in the fusiform gyrus. Conclusion: Plasma tau may serve as a non-specific marker for neurodegeneration but is still relevant to AD considering low GMD was associated with plasma tau in Aβ participants and not Aβ-participants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1245-1254
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Alzheimer's Disease
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2017


  • Alzheimer disease
  • magnetic resonance imaging
  • mild cognitive impairment
  • plasma
  • tau protein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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