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Challenges of multimorbidity of the aging brain: a critical update

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Johannes Attems


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© 2014, Springer-Verlag Wien. A major problem in elderly patients is the high incidence of multiple pathologies, referred to as multimorbidity, in the aging brain. It has been increasingly recognized that co-occurrence of neurodegenerative proteinopathies and other pathologies including cerebrovascular disorders is a frequent event in the brains of both cognitively intact and impaired aged subjects. Although clinical and neuropathological diagnostic criteria of the major neurodegenerative diseases have been improved, major challenges arise from cerebral multimorbidity, and the thresholds to cause clinical overt dementia are ill defined. More than 80 % of aged human brains show neurodegenerative non-Alzheimer type proteinopathies and other pathologies which, however, frequently have been missed clinically and are even difficult to identify at neuropathological examination. Autopsy studies differ in selection criteria and the applied evaluation methods. Therefore, irrespective of the clinical symptoms, the frequency of cerebral pathologies vary considerably: Alzheimer-related pathology is seen in 19–100 %, with “pure” Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in 17–72 %, Lewy pathology in 6–39 % (AD + Lewy disease 9–28 %), vascular pathologies in 28–93 % (10.7–78 % “pure” vascular dementia), TDP-43 proteinopathy in 6–39 %, hippocampal sclerosis in 8–1 %, and mixed pathologies in 10–93 %. These data clearly suggest that pathologically deposited proteins in neurodegenerating diseases mutually interact and are influenced by other factors, in particular cardiovascular and cerebrovascular ones, to promote cognitive decline and other clinical symptoms. It is obvious that cognitive and other neuropsychiatric impairment in the aged result from a multimorbid condition in the CNS rather than from a single disease and that the number of complex pathologies progresses with increasing age. These facts have implications for improvement of the clinical diagnosis and prognosis, the development of specific biomarkers, preventive strategies and better treatment of cerebral multimorbidity.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Jellinger KA, Attems J

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Neural Transmission

Year: 2015

Volume: 122

Issue: 4

Pages: 505-521

Print publication date: 01/04/2015

Online publication date: 05/08/2014

Acceptance date: 24/07/2014

ISSN (print): 0300-9564

ISSN (electronic): 1435-1463

Publisher: Springer-Verlag Wien


DOI: 10.1007/s00702-014-1288-x

PubMed id: 25091618