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Neurodegenerative brain changes are associated with area deprivation in the United Kingdom: findings from the Brains for Dementia Research study

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Calum Hamilton, Professor Fiona MatthewsORCiD, Dr Daniel ErskineORCiD, Professor Johannes Attems, Professor Alan ThomasORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Socioeconomic disadvantage is associated with greater risk of dementia. This has been theorised to reflect inequalities in cognitive reserve, healthcare access, lifestyle, and other health factors which may contribute to the clinical manifestation of dementia. We aimed to assess whether area deprivation in the United Kingdom was associated with greater risk or severity of the specific neurodegenerative diseases which lead to dementia in a multi-centre cohort with autopsy assessment. Participants underwent clinical assessment prior to brain tissue donation post-mortem. Each then underwent detailed, standardised neuropathological assessment. National area deprivation statistics were derived for each participant’s neighbourhood, for use as a predictor in binary and ordinal logistic models assessing the respective presence and severity of staging of key neuropathological changes, adjusting for theorised confounders. Individuals from among the 20% most deprived neighbourhoods in the United Kingdom had significantly higher neurofibrillary tangle and neuritic plaque staging, and increased risk of cerebral amyloid angiopathy. These findings were not explained by a greater risk of diabetes or hypertension, APOE genotype, alcohol misuse or tobacco smoking, sex, or age differences. A sensitivity analysis conditioning on baseline cognitive impairment did not meaningfully change the observed association. Socioeconomic disadvantage may contribute to dementia incidence through a greater severity of specific neuropathological changes (neurofibrillary tangles, neuritic plaques, and cerebral amyloid angiopathy), independent of other indirect influences. Mechanisms through which deprivation is associated with these require further exploration.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Hamilton C, Matthews FE, Erskine D, Attems J, Thomas AJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Acta Neuropathologica Communications

Year: 2021

Volume: 9

Online publication date: 19/12/2021

Acceptance date: 30/11/2021

Date deposited: 01/12/2021

ISSN (electronic): 2051-5960

Publisher: Springer Nature


DOI: 10.1186/s40478-021-01301-8


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