With aging, the incidence of neuropathological hallmarks of neurodegenerative diseases increases in the brains of cognitively healthy individuals. It is currently unclear to what extent these hallmarks associate with symptoms of disease at extreme ages. Forty centenarians from the 100-plus Study cohort donated their brain. Centenarians self-reported to be cognitively healthy at baseline, which was confirmed by a proxy. Objective ante-mortem measurements of cognitive performance were associated with the prevalence, distribution and quantity of age- and AD-related neuropathological hallmarks. Despite self-reported cognitive health, objective neuropsychological testing suggested varying levels of ante-mortem cognitive functioning. Post-mortem, we found that neuropathological hallmarks related to age and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Aβ and Tau pathology, as well as atherosclerosis, were abundantly present in most or all centenarians, whereas Lewy body and pTDP-43 pathology were scarce. We observed that increased pathology loads correlated across pathology subtypes, and an overall trend of higher pathology loads to associate with a lower cognitive test performance. This trend was carried especially by the presence of neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) and granulovacuolar degeneration (GVD) and to a lesser extent by Aβ-associated pathologies. Cerebral Amyloid Angiopathy (CAA) specifically associated with lower executive functioning in the centenarians. In conclusion, we find that while the centenarians in this cohort escaped or delayed cognitive impairment until extreme ages, their brains reveal varying levels of disease-associated neuropathological hallmarks, some of which associate with cognitive performance.
- Journal Article