Levels of tau protein in plasma are associated with neurodegeneration and cognitive function in a population-based elderly cohort

Jeffrey L. Dage, Alexandra M V Wennberg, David C. Airey, Clinton E. Hagen, David S Knopman, Mary Margaret Machulda, Rosebud O Roberts, Clifford R Jr. Jack, Ronald Carl Petersen, Michelle M Mielke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

36 Scopus citations


Introduction Tau protein levels in plasma may be a marker of neuronal damage. We examined associations between plasma tau levels and Alzheimer's disease (AD)–related magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET) neuroimaging measures among nondemented individuals. Methods Participants included 378 cognitively normal (CN) and 161 mild cognitive impairment (MCI) individuals enrolled in the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging with concurrent neuropsychological measures and amyloid PET, fluorodeoxyglucose PET, and MRI. Baseline plasma tau levels were measured using the Quanterix Simoa-HD1 tau assay. Results Plasma tau levels were higher in MCI compared with CN (4.34 vs. 4.14 pg/mL, P = .078). In regression models adjusted for age, gender, education, and APOE, higher plasma tau was associated with worse memory performance (b = −0.30, P = .02) and abnormal cortical thickness in an AD signature region (odds ratio = 1.80, P = .018). Discussion Plasma tau is associated with cortical thickness and memory performance. Longitudinal studies will better elucidate the associations between plasma tau, neurodegeneration, and cognition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1226-1234
Number of pages9
JournalAlzheimer's and Dementia
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016



  • Amyloid
  • Cognition
  • Cortical thickness
  • MCI
  • Memory
  • MRI
  • Plasma tau

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Health Policy
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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