Resistance to Alzheimer disease neuropathologic changes and apparent cognitive resilience in the Nun and Honolulu-Asia Aging Studies

Caitlin S. Latimer, C. Dirk Keene, Margaret E. Flanagan, Laura S. Hemmy, Kelvin O. Lim, Lon R. White, Kathleen S. Montine, Thomas J. Montine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Two population-based studies key to advancing knowledge of brain aging are the Honolulu-Asia Aging Study (HAAS) and the Nun Study. Harmonization of their neuropathologic data allows cross comparison, with findings common to both studies likely generalizable, while distinct observations may point to aging brain changes that are dependent on sex, ethnicity, environment, or lifestyle factors. Here, we expanded the neuropathologic evaluation of these 2 studies using revised NIA-Alzheimer's Association guidelines and compared directly the neuropathologic features of resistance and apparent cognitive resilience. There were significant differences in prevalence of Alzheimer disease neuropathologic change, small vessel vascular brain injury, and Lewy body disease between these 2 studies, suggesting that sex, ethnicity, and lifestyle factors may significantly influence resistance to developing brain injury with age. In contrast, hippocampal sclerosis prevalence was very similar, but skewed to poorer cognitive performance, suggesting that hippocampal sclerosis could act sequentially with other diseases to impair cognitive function. Strikingly, despite these observed differences, the proportion of individuals resistant to all 4 diseases of brain or displaying apparent cognitive resilience was virtually identical between HAAS and Nun Study participants. Future in vivo validation of these results awaits comprehensive biomarkers of these 4 brain diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)458-466
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of neuropathology and experimental neurology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 American Association of Neuropathologists, Inc.


  • Alzheimer disease neuropathologic change
  • Cognitive resilience
  • NIA-AA guidelines
  • Population-based cohort


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