Objective: To determine the relation of amyloid and tau pathology in the hippocampal formation to decline in memory and other cognitive functions in Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
Methods: Regression models were used to relate semiquantitative measurements of amyloid plaques, neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) and neuropil threads (NTs) at autopsy with antemortem performance in memory, abstract/visuospatial and language domains in two independent samples (n=41, n=66) that had repeated neuropsychological measurements before death.
Results: In both groups, the number of NFTs in entorhinal cortex, subiculum and CA1-region was inversely associated with memory performance at last visit before death. However, the number of amyloid plaques and NTs in the entorhinal cortex was also inversely related to poor memory function. Moreover, as the number of plaques or NTs increased in any region of the hippocampal formation there was a more rapid decline in memory performance over time, a similar decline was associated with increasing numbers of NFTs in the CA1 or subiculum. In contrast, there was no association between amyloid plaques, NFTs or NTs in the frontal or parietal lobe and performance in memory, nor was there an association between plaques, NFTs or NTs in the hippocampal formation and cognitive functions unrelated to memory.
Interpretation: This study implicates both amyloid deposition and tau pathology in the hippocampus as an early and late cause of decline in memory function over time in AD. Memory performance appears to be specifically related with amount of amyloid plaques, NFTs and NTs in the entorhinal cortex and hippocampus.