Coping with brain amyloid: genetic heterogeneity and cognitive resilience to Alzheimer’s pathophysiology

for the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Although abnormal accumulation of amyloid in the brain is an early biomarker of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), wide variation in cognitive trajectories during life can be seen in the setting of brain amyloidosis, ranging from maintenance of normal function to progression to dementia. It is widely presumed that cognitive resilience (i.e., coping) to amyloidosis may be influenced by environmental, lifestyle, and inherited factors, but relatively little in specifics is known about this architecture. Here, we leveraged multimodal longitudinal data from a large, population-based sample of older adults to discover genetic factors associated with differential cognitive resilience to brain amyloidosis determined by positron emission tomography (PET). Among amyloid-PET positive older adults, the AD risk allele APOE ɛ4 was associated with worse longitudinal memory trajectories as expected, and was thus covaried in the main analyses. Through a genome-wide association study (GWAS), we uncovered a novel association with cognitive resilience on chromosome 8 at the MTMR7/CNOT7/ZDHHC2/VPS37A locus (p = 4.66 × 10–8, β = 0.23), and demonstrated replication in an independent cohort. Post-hoc analyses confirmed this association as specific to the setting of elevated amyloid burden and not explained by differences in tau deposition or cerebrovascular disease. Complementary gene-based analyses and publically available functional data suggested that the causative variant at this locus may tag CNOT7 (CCR4-NOT Transcription Complex Subunit 7), a gene linked to synaptic plasticity and hippocampal-dependent learning and memory. Pathways related to cell adhesion and immune system activation displayed enrichment of association in the GWAS. Our findings, resulting from a unique study design, support the hypothesis that genetic heterogeneity is one of the factors that explains differential cognitive resilience to brain amyloidosis. Further characterization of the underlying biological mechanisms influencing cognitive resilience may facilitate improved prognostic counseling, therapeutic application, and trial enrollment in AD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number48
JournalActa Neuropathologica Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Alzheimer’s
  • Amyloid
  • Cognitive decline
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Resilience

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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