Blood metabolite markers of cognitive performance and brain function in aging

Brittany N. Simpson, Min Kim, Yi Fang Chuang, Lori Beason-Held, Melissa Kitner-Triolo, Michael Kraut, Seth T. Lirette, B. Gwen Windham, Michael E. Griswold, Cristina Legido-Quigley, Madhav Thambisetty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


We recently showed that Alzheimer's disease patients have lower plasma concentrations of the phosphatidylcholines (PC16:0/20:5; PC16:0/22:6; and PC18:0/22:6) relative to healthy controls. We now extend these findings by examining associations between plasma concentrations of these PCs with cognition and brain function (measured by regional resting state cerebral blood flow; rCBF) in non-demented older individuals. Within the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging neuroimaging substudy, participants underwent cognitive assessments and brain 15 O-water positron emission tomography. Plasma phosphatidylcholines concentrations (PC16:0/20:5, PC16:0/22:6, and PC18:0/22:6), cognition (California Verbal Learning Test (CVLT), Trail Making Test A&B, the Mini-Mental State Examination, Benton Visual Retention, Card Rotation, and Fluencies - Category and Letter), and rCBF were assessed. Lower plasma phosphatidylcholine concentrations were associated with lower baseline memory performance (CVLT long delay recall task - PC16:0/20:5: -2.17 -1.39 -0.60 p = 0.001 (β with 95% confidence interval subscripts)) and lower rCBF in several brain regions including those associated with memory performance and higher order cognitive processes. Our findings suggest that lower plasma concentrations of PC16:0/20:5, PC16:0/22:6, and PC18:0/22:6 are associated with poorer memory performance as well as widespread decreases in brain function during aging. Dysregulation of peripheral phosphatidylcholine metabolism may therefore be a common feature of both Alzheimer's disease and age-associated differences in cognition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1212-1223
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016


  • Alzheimer's disease's
  • biomarker
  • phosphatidylcholine
  • positron emission tomography imaging
  • verbal memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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