Cross-sectional genetic association studies have reported equivocal results on the relationship between the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) Val66Met and risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). As AD is a neurodegenerative disease, genetic influences may become clearer from prospective study. We aimed to determine whether BDNF Val66Met polymorphism influences changes in memory performance, hippocampal volume, and Aβ accumulation in adults with amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI) and high Aβ.
Thirty-four adults with aMCI were recruited from the Australian, Imaging, Biomarkers and Lifestyle (AIBL) Study. Participants underwent PiB-PET and structural MRI neuroimaging, neuropsychological assessments and BDNF genotyping at baseline, 18 month, and 36 month assessments.
In individuals with aMCI and high Aβ, Met carriers showed significant and large decline in episodic memory (d = 0.90, p = .020) and hippocampal volume (d = 0.98, p = .035). BDNF Val66Met was unrelated to the rate of Aβ accumulation (d = -0.35, p = .401).
Although preliminary due to the small sample size, results of this study suggest that high Aβ levels and Met carriage may be useful prognostic markers of accelerated decline in episodic memory, and reductions in hippocampal volume in individuals in the prodromal or MCI stage of AD.