Effect of age, ethnicity, sex, cognitive status and APOE genotype on amyloid load and the threshold for amyloid positivity

R. Duara, D. A. Loewenstein, G. Lizarraga, M. Adjouadi, W. W. Barker, M. T. Greig-Custo, M. Rosselli, A. Penate, Y. F. Shea, R. Behar, A. Ollarves, C. Robayo, K. Hanson, M. Marsiske, S. Burke, N. Ertekin-Taner, D. Vaillancourt, S. De Santi, T. Golde, De Kosky ST

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The threshold for amyloid positivity by visual assessment on PET has been validated by comparison to amyloid load measured histopathologically and biochemically at post mortem. As such, it is now feasible to use qualitative visual assessment of amyloid positivity as an in-vivo gold standard to determine those factors which can modify the quantitative threshold for amyloid positivity. We calculated quantitative amyloid load, measured as Standardized Uptake Value Ratios (SUVRs) using [18-F]florbetaben PET scans, for 159 Hispanic and non-Hispanic participants, who had been classified clinically as Cognitively Normal (CN), Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) or Dementia (DEM). PET scans were visually rated as amyloid positive (A+) or negative (A-), and these judgments were used as the gold standard with which to determine (using ROC analyses) the SUVR threshold for amyloid positivity considering factors such as age, ethnicity (Hispanic versus non-Hispanic), gender, cognitive status, and apolipoprotein E ε4 carrier status. Visually rated scans were A+ for 11% of CN, 39.0% of MCI and 70% of DEM participants. The optimal SUVR threshold for A+ among all participants was 1.42 (sensitivity = 94%; specificity = 92.5%), but this quantitative threshold was higher among E4 carriers (SUVR = 1.52) than non-carriers (SUVR = 1.31). While mean SUVRs did not differ between Hispanic and non-Hispanic participants;, a statistically significant interaction term indicated that the effect of E4 carrier status on amyloid load was greater among non-Hispanics than Hispanics. Visual assessment, as the gold standard for A+, facilitates determination of the effects of various factors on quantitative thresholds for amyloid positivity. A continuous relationship was found between amyloid load and global cognitive scores, suggesting that any calculated threshold for the whole group, or a subgroup, is artefactual and that the lowest calculated threshold may be optimal for the purposes of early diagnosis and intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101800
JournalNeuroImage: Clinical
StatePublished - 2019


  • APOE
  • Amyloid
  • Cognition
  • Hispanic
  • SUVR
  • Threshold

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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