Sleep as a Potential Biomarker of Tau and Beta-Amyloid Burden in the Human Brain


Recent proposals suggest that sleep may be a factor associated with accumulation of two core pathological features of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), tau and beta-amyloid (A-beta). Here we combined PET measures of A-beta and tau, electroencephalogram sleep recordings, and retrospective sleep evaluations to investigate the potential utility of sleep measures in predicting in vivo AD pathology in male and female older adults. Regression analyses revealed that the severity of impaired slow oscillation-sleep spindle coupling predicted greater medial temporal lobe tau burden. A-beta burden was not associated with coupling impairment but instead predicted the diminished amplitude of <1 Hz slow-wave-activity, results that were statistically dissociable from each other. Additionally, comparisons of AD pathology and retrospective, self-reported changes in sleep duration demonstrated that changes in sleep across the lifespan can predict late-life A-beta and tau burden. Thus, quantitative and qualitative features of human sleep represent potential noninvasive, cost-effective, and scalable biomarkers (current and future forecasting) of AD pathology, and carry both therapeutic and public health implications.

The Journal of Neuroscience
Randolph Helfrich
Randolph Helfrich
Principial Investigator