Association of Plasma Neurofilament Light Chain with Neocortical Amyloid-β Load and Cognitive Performance in Cognitively Normal Elderly Participants

Pratishtha Chatterjee, Kathryn Goozee, Hamid R. Sohrabi, Kaikai Shen, Tejal Shah, Prita R. Asih, Preeti Dave, Candice Man Yan, Kevin Taddei, Roger Chung, Henrik Zetterberg, Kaj Blennow, Ralph N. Martins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The disruption of neurofilament, an axonal cytoskeletal protein, in neurodegenerative conditions may result in neuronal damage and its release into the cerebrospinal fluid and blood. In Alzheimer's disease (AD), neurofilament light chain (NFL), a neurofilament subunit, is elevated in the cerebrospinal fluid and blood. Objective: Investigate the association of plasma NFL with preclinical-AD features, such as high neocortical amyloid-β load (NAL) and subjective memory complaints, and cognitive performance in cognitively normal older adults. Methods: Plasma NFL concentrations were measured employing the single molecule array platform in participants from the Kerr Anglican Retirement Village Initiative in Ageing Health cohort, aged 65- 90 years. Participants underwent a battery of neuropsychological testing to evaluate cognitive performance and were categorized as low NAL (NAL-, n=65) and high NAL (NAL+, n=35) assessed via PET, and further stratified into subjective memory complainers (SMC; nNAL-=51, nNAL+=25) and non-SMC (nNAL-=14, nNAL+=10) based on the Memory Assessment Clinic- Questionnaire. Results: Plasma NFL inversely correlated with cognitive performance. No significant difference in NFL was observed between NAL+ and NAL- participants; however, within APOE ϵ4 non-carriers, higher NAL was observed in individuals with NFL concentrations within quartiles 3 and 4 (versus quartile 1). Additionally, within the NAL+ participants, SMC had a trend of higher NFL compared to non-SMC. Conclusion: Plasma NFL is inversely associated with cognitive performance in elderly individuals. While plasma NFL may not reflect NAL in individuals with normal global cognition, the current observations indicate that onset of axonal injury, reflected by increased plasma NFL, within the preclinical phase of AD may contribute to the pathogenesis of AD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)479-487
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Alzheimer's Disease
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • blood
  • cognitive function
  • episodic memory
  • executive function
  • neurofilaments
  • positron emission tomography
  • verbal memory
  • visual memory


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