Association between Late-Life Neuropsychiatric Symptoms and Cognitive Decline in Relation to White Matter Hyperintensities and Amyloid Burden

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Background: Neuropsychiatric symptoms (NPS) among cognitively normal older adults are increasingly recognized as risk factors for cognitive decline and impairment. However, the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. Objective: To examine whether biomarkers of Alzheimer's disease (amyloid burden) and cerebrovascular disease (white matter hyperintensity (WMH) volume) modify the association between NPS and cognitive decline among cognitively unimpaired older adults. Methods: Analyses included 193 cognitively unimpaired participants (M age = 70 years) from the BIOCARD study, including 148 with PET amyloid and WMH biomarker data. NPS were measured with Neuropsychiatric Inventory and Geriatric Depression Scale scores. Linear mixed effects models were used to examine the association between baseline NPS and longitudinal cognitive trajectories (M follow-up = 3.05 years), using separate models for global, episodic memory, and executive function cognitive composite scores. In a subset of individuals with biomarker data, we evaluated whether WMH or cortical amyloid burden modified the relationship between NPS and cognitive change (as indicated by the NPS×biomarker×time interactions). Results: Higher baseline NPS were associated with lower executive function scores, but not a faster rate of decline in executive function. NPS symptoms were unrelated to the global or episodic memory composite scores, and there was little evidence of a relationship between NPS symptoms and cognitive change over time. The associations between NPS and cognitive decline did not differ by amyloid or WMH burden, and NPS were unrelated to amyloid and WMH burden. Conclusion: These results suggest that the effect of neuropsychiatric symptoms on executive dysfunction may occur through mechanisms outside of amyloid and cerebrovascular disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1415-1426
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Alzheimer's Disease
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2022


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • amyloid
  • depression
  • mild behavioral impairment
  • neuropsychiatric symptoms
  • white matter hyperintensities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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