Background: Increasing evidence points to intracranial atherosclerosis as a risk factor not only for stroke but also for dementia, but whether it is linked to Alzheimer’s disease-specific pathology itself is less understood. In the community-based Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study, we evaluated the cross-sectional association between intracranial atherosclerosis and cerebral amyloid deposition, in nondemented participants.
Methods: In 2011-2014, a subset of participants from the ARIC Neurocognitive Study underwent both a brain MRI, including high-resolution vessel wall imaging, and florbetapir PET, as a marker of amyloid deposition. We analyzed the association between elevated amyloid (defined as a global cortical florbetapir standardized uptake value ratio (SUVR)>1.2) and intracranial arterial plaque presence, frequency, and extent of stenosis, with adjustment for demographic and vascular risk factors. We tested effect modification by APOE ε4 genotype.
Results: In 300 participants (mean age of 76y, 44% African-American, 56% female, 31% carriers of at least one APOE ε4 allele), intracranial plaque was found in 105 (35%) participants. Mean SUVR was higher in individuals with vs without plaque (1.34 ± 0.29 vs 1.27 ± 0.23, p=0.03). In adjusted models, plaque presence was not associated significantly with elevated SUVR in the total sample, nor was number of plaques. Associations between plaque presence and extent were generally stronger in APOE ε4 carriers than noncarriers (p<0.05 for interaction for some plaque features; see Table).
Conclusions: Although intracranial arterial plaque or stenosis was not definitively associated with brain amyloid in this sample of nondemented older adults, associations with brain amyloid appeared stronger in carriers of an APOE ε4 allele, consistent with studies demonstrating a similar relationship as that seen with other more traditionally measured vascular risk factors.