The Framingham Brain Donation Program: Neuropathology Along the Cognitive Continuum

Department of Neurology, Boston University School of Medicine, 715 Albany Street, Boston, MA 02118, USA.
Current Alzheimer research (Impact Factor: 3.89). 04/2012; 9(6):673-86. DOI: 10.2174/156720512801322609
Source: PubMed


The Framingham Heart Study has enrolled 3 generations of participants, the original cohort (gen 1) enrolled in 1948, the offspring cohort (gen 2) enrolled in 1971 and the third generation enrolled in 2002. Participants have been undergoing prospective surveillance for incident stroke and dementia and embedded within this cohort is the voluntary Framingham Brain Donation Program that was begun in 1997. Participants who register to become brain donors have had one or more brain MR and cognitive test batteries administered. In addition, they undergo neurological evaluation as indicated, record review and post-mortem next-of-kin interview to determine the presence, type and extent of antemortem, clinical neurological diagnoses and to assign a retrospective clinical dementia rating (CDR) Scale score. Between 1997 and 2009 there were 1806 deaths, 186 of which were among registered brain donors and of these 139 brains could be examined. 58% were deemed cognitively normal at death. We present results for 3 projects; the first was to examine the sensitivity and specificity of our clinical diagnosis against the gold standard of pathological AD in 59 persons who underwent detailed cognitive assessment in the two years prior to death; we observed a 77.3% sensitivity (2 persons with AD were diagnosed clinically as Lewy body dementia) and a 91.9% specificity. The second examined the correlation of regional Alzheimer-type pathology to cognitive status at death among 34 persons who were over the age of 75 and without any significant vascular or alternative neurodegenerative pathology and found that neurofibrillary tangle counts distinguished between persons who were controls, had mild cognitive impairment, mild or moderate dementia; tangles in dorsolateral frontal cortex best distinguished MCI and controls. The third project examined the extent and severity of vascular pathology, again in a larger sample of varying cognitive abilities and in a subsample of persons with either amnestic or nonamnestic MCI. We observed that an aggregate ischemic injury score was significantly higher in persons with a CDR score of 0.5 than in normal controls.

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Available from: Sudha Seshadri, Jun 17, 2015
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    • "The need for brain tissue to support neuroscience research has led many institutions to call for brain donation programs, as the French Academy of Medicine did recently[34]. Variable consent rates have been reported in such programs, because of heterogeneous donor populations and modes of approach[15], from 10–20% in broad community-based cohorts[25,35], to very high donation rates in specific populations such as centenarians[36], or with specific recruitment protocols[37]. Moreover, although no study directly compared donation rates across neurodegenerative disorders , low autopsy rates do not seem to be confined to dementing conditions. "
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    ABSTRACT: Postmortem neuropathological examination of the brain is essential in neurodegenerative diseases, to ensure accurate diagnosis, to obtain an a posteriori critical assessment of the adequacy of clinical care, and to validate new biomarkers, but is only rarely performed. The purpose of this study was to assess factors limiting brain donation, such as reluctance of physicians to seek donation consent, opposition from patients and families, and organizational constraints. We conducted a survey across French memory clinics and major neuropathological centers. Few postmortem examinations were performed annually, as less than one third of the centers had performed at least five autopsies, and 41% had performed none. The main limiting factor was the lack of donation requests made by physicians, as half of them never approach patients for brain donation. Reasons for not seeking donation consent often include discomfort broaching the subject and lack of awareness of the medical and scientific benefit of postmortems (77%), organizational constraints (61%), and overestimation of families' negative reaction (51%). Family refusals represented a second major obstacle, and were often caused by misconceptions. Identifying and addressing these biases early could help improve physicians' rate of making requests and the public's awareness about the importance of brain donation.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2015 · Journal of Alzheimer's disease: JAD
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    • "In 1997, the FHS began a postmortem brain tissue donation program in collaboration with the Boston University Alzheimer's Disease Center's Neuropathology Core. Details of the enrollment process are available elsewhere [19]. As of June 2009, 16% of surviving original cohort participants (n 5 35) and 11% of surviving offspring cohort participants (n 5 398) were enrolled as potential brain donors. "
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    ABSTRACT: The Boston criteria are the basis for a noninvasive diagnosis of cerebral amyloid angiopathy (CAA) in the setting of lobar intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH). We assessed the accuracy of these criteria in individuals with lobar microbleeds (MBs) without ICH. We identified individuals aged >55 years having brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and pathologic assessment of CAA in a single academic hospital and a community-based population (Framingham Heart Study [FHS]). We determined the positive predictive value (PPV) of the Boston criteria for CAA in both cohorts, using lobar MBs as the only hemorrhagic lesion to fulfill the criteria. We included 102 individuals: 55 from the hospital-based cohort and 47 from FHS (mean age at MRI 74.7 ± 8.5 and 83.4 ± 10.9 years; CAA prevalence 60% and 46.8%; cases with any lobar MB 49% and 21.3%; and cases with ≥2 strictly lobar MBs 29.1% and 8.5%, respectively). PPV of "probable CAA" (≥2 strictly lobar MBs) was 87.5 (95% confidence interval [CI], 60.4-97.8) and 25 (95% CI, 13.2-78) in hospital and general populations, respectively. Strictly lobar MBs strongly predict CAA in non-ICH individuals when found in a hospital context. However, their diagnostic accuracy in the general population appears limited. Copyright © 2015 The Alzheimer's Association. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2015 · Alzheimer's & dementia: the journal of the Alzheimer's Association
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    ABSTRACT: Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and its receptor tyrosine kinase B (TrkB) may influence brain reserve, the ability of the brain to tolerate pathological changes without significant decline in function. Here, we explore whether a specifically vulnerable population of human neurons shows a compensatory response to the neuropathological changes of Alzheimer disease (AD) and whether that response depends on an upregulation of the BDNF pathway. We observed increased neuronal TrkB expression associated with early-stage AD pathology (Braak and Braak stages I-II) in hippocampal CA1 region samples from cognitively intact Framingham Heart Study subjects (n = 5) when compared with cognitively intact individuals with no neurofibrillary tangles (n = 4). Because BDNF/TrkB signaling affects memory formation and retention through modification of the actin cytoskeleton, we examined the expression of actin capping protein β2 (Capzb2), a marker of actin cytoskeleton reorganization. Capzb2 expression was also significantly increased in CA1 hippocampal neurons of cognitively intact subjects with early-stage AD pathology. Our data suggest that increased expression of TrkB and Capzb2 accompanies adequate brain reserve in the initial stages of AD pathology. In subsequent stages of AD, the higher levels of TrkB and Capzb2 expression achieved may not be sufficient to prevent cognitive decline.
    No preview · Article · Jun 2012 · Journal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology
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