Witnessed apneas are associated with elevated tau-PET levels in cognitively unimpaired elderly

Diego Z. Carvalho, Erik K. StLouis, Christopher G. Schwarz, Val J. Lowe, Bradley F. Boeve, Scott A. Przybelski, Ashritha Reddy, Michelle M. Mielke, David S. Knopman, Ronald C. Petersen, Clifford R. Jack, Prashanthi Vemuri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


ObjectiveTo assess whether informant-reported apneas during sleep (witnessed apneas) in cognitively unimpaired (CU) elderly persons are associated with higher levels of brain tau.MethodsFrom the population-based Mayo Clinic Study of Aging, we identified 292 CU elderly ≥65 years of age with both AV-1451 tau-PET and Pittsburgh compound B (PiB)-PET scans and whose bed partners and close relatives had completed a questionnaire that assessed whether participants had witnessed apneas during sleep. For this cross-sectional analysis, we selected the entorhinal and inferior temporal cortices as our regions of interest (ROIs) because they are highly susceptible to tau accumulation. PET signal was scaled to the cerebellum crus to calculate standardized uptake value ratio (SUVR). We fit linear models to assess the association between regional tau and witnessed apneas while controlling for age, sex, years of education, body mass index, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, diabetes, reduced sleep, excessive daytime sleepiness, and global PiB.ResultsForty-three participants (14.7%) were found to have witnessed apneas during sleep. The report of witnessed apneas was associated with higher tau-PET SUVR elevation in our ROIs: 0.049 SUVR (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.010-0.087, p = 0.015) in the entorhinal cortex and 0.037 SUVR (95% CI 0.006-0.067, p = 0.019) in the inferior temporal cortex after controlling for confounders.ConclusionWe identified a significant association between witnessed apneas in CU elderly and elevated tau-PET signal in tau-susceptible brain regions. These results suggest a plausible mechanism that could contribute to cognitive impairment and the development of Alzheimer disease. Longitudinal observations are necessary to determine direction of causality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E1793-E1802
Issue number17
StatePublished - Apr 28 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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