Traumatic Brain Injury History Is Associated With an Earlier Age of Dementia Onset in Autopsy-Confirmed Alzheimer’s Disease

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Abstract

Objective: To evaluate whether a history of traumatic brain injury (TBI) with reported loss of consciousness (LOC) is a risk factor for earlier onset of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in an autopsy-confirmed sample. Method: Data from 2,133 participants with autopsy-confirmed AD (i.e., at least Braak neurofibrillary tangle stages III to VI and CERAD neuritic plaque score moderate to frequent) were obtained from the National Alzheimer’s Coordinating Center (NACC). Participants were categorized by presence/absence of self-reported remote (i.e., >1 year prior to their first Alzheimer’s Disease Center visit) history of TBI with LOC (TBI+ vs. TBI−). Analyses of Covariance (ANCOVA) controlling for sex, education, and race compared groups on clinician-estimated age of symptom onset and age of diagnosis. Results: Average age of onset was 2.34 years earlier (p = .01) for the TBI+ group (n = 194) versus the TBI− group (n = 1900). Dementia was diagnosed on average 2.83 years earlier (p = .002) in the TBI+ group (n = 197) versus the TBI− group (n = 1936). Using more stringent neuropathological criteria (i.e., Braak stages V-VI and CERAD frequent), both age of AD onset and diagnosis were 3.6 years earlier in the TBI+ group (both p’s < .001). Conclusions: History of TBI with reported LOC appears to be a risk factor for earlier AD onset. This is the first study to use autopsy-confirmed cases, supporting previous investigations that used clinical criteria for the diagnosis of AD. Further investigation as to possible underlying mechanisms of association is needed.

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