Methods: Six clinically probable AD and 20 MCI subjects had inflammation (11C-(R)-PK11195), amyloid (11C-PiB) and tau (18F-flortaucipir) PET, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and a neuropsychological assessment. Parametric images of tracer binding were interrogated at a voxel level and by region of interest analyses.
Results: 55% of MCI and 83% of AD subjects had a high amyloid-β load. We have previously reported that clusters of correlated amyloid and inflammation levels are present in cortex. Here we found no correlation between levels of inflammation (11C-(R)-PK11195 BPND) and tau (18F-flortaucipir SUVR) or MMSE scores in high amyloid-β cases.
Interpretation: While correlated levels of amyloid-β and inflammation can be seen in MCI, we did not detect an association between levels of cortical tau tangles and inflammation in our series of high amyloid-β cases. High levels of inflammation could be seen in amyloid-β positive MCI cases where 18F-flortaucipir signals were low suggesting microglial activation precedes tau tangle formation. Inflammation levels were higher in high amyloid-β MCI than in early AD cases, compatible with it initially playing a protective role.