CSF NFL in a Longitudinally Assessed PD Cohort: Age Effects and Cognitive Trajectories

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Abstract

Background

Neurofilament light protein is an unspecific biofluid marker that reflects the extent of neuronal/axonal damage and thereby offers the chance monitor disease severity and progression. The objective of this study was to investigate cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) levels of neurofilament light protein in Parkinson’s disease (PD) patients with clinical trajectories of motor and cognitive function longitudinally.

Methods

CSF neurofilament light protein levels were assessed in 371 PDsporadic, 126 genetic PD patients (91 PDGBA, 8 PDLRRK2, 21 PDPRKN/PINK1/DJ1_heterozygous, 6 PDPRKN/PINK1/DJ1_homozygous), and 71 healthy controls. Participants were followed up longitudinally for up to 8 years.

Results

At baseline, mean CSF neurofilament light protein levels were highest in PD patients with cognitive impairment (Montreal Cognitive Assessment score ≤ 25; 1207 pg/mL) but also higher in PD patients with normal cognitive function (757 pg/mL) compared with healthy controls (593 pg/mL; P  ≤ 0.001). In healthy controls and in PD patients older age was associated with higher CSF levels of neurofilament light protein (P  ≤ 0.001). In PD patients, male gender, older age at onset, longer disease duration, higher Hoehn and Yahr stages, higher UPDRS‐III scores, and lower Montreal Cognitive Assessment scores were associated with higher CSF levels of neurofilament light protein (P  < 0.01). In patients who developed cognitive impairment during study, CSF neurofilament light protein levels prior to conversion to cognitive impairment were not significantly different compared with CSF neurofilament light protein levels of patients who remained cognitively normal.

Conclusions

Increased CSF levels of neurofilament light protein are associated with cognitive decline and motor impairment in PD. However, this increase seems not a very early event and does not mark the conversion to cognitive impairment beforehand. Therefore, the predictive value needs to be discussed critically. © 2020 International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society

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