Small vessel disease, but neither amyloid load nor metabolic deficit, is dependent on age at onset in Alzheimer's disease.
There is controversy concerning whether Alzheimer's disease (AD) with early onset is distinct from AD with late onset with regard to amyloid pathology and neuronal metabolic deficit. We hypothesized that compared with patients with early-onset AD, patients with late-onset AD have more comorbid small vessel disease (SVD) contributing to clinical severity, whereas there are no differences in amyloid pathology and neuronal metabolic deficit.The study included two groups of patients with probable AD dementia with evidence of the AD pathophysiologic process: 24 patients with age at onset<60 years old and 36 patients with age at onset>70 years old. Amyloid deposition was assessed using carbon-11-labeled Pittsburgh compound B positron emission tomography, comorbid SVD was assessed using magnetic resonance imaging, and neuronal metabolic deficit was assessed using fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography. Group differences of global and regional distribution of pathology were explored using region of interest and voxel-based analyses, respectively, carefully controlling for the influence of dementia severity, apolipoprotein E genotype, and in particular SVD. The pattern of cognitive impairment was determined using z scores of the subtests of the Consortium to Establish a Registry for Alzheimer's Disease Neuropsychological Assessment Battery.Patients with late-onset AD showed a significantly greater amount of SVD. No statistically significant differences in global or regional amyloid deposition or neuronal metabolic deficit between the two groups were revealed. However, when not controlling for SVD, subtle differences in fluorodeoxyglucose uptake between early-onset AD and late-onset AD groups were detectable. There were no significant differences regarding cognitive functioning.Age at onset does not influence amyloid deposition or neuronal metabolic deficit in AD. The greater extent of SVD in late-onset AD influences the association between neuronal metabolic deficit and clinical symptoms.