Publications & Posters

Subjective cognitive complaints and blood biomarkers of neurodegenerative diseases: a longitudinal cohort study

Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy | November 11, 2023

Perna L, Stocker H, Burow L, Beyer L, Trares K, Kurz C, Gürsel S, Holleczek B, Tatò M, Beyreuther K, Mons U, Gerwert K, Perneczky R, Schöttker B, Brenner H.

Alzheimers Res Ther. 2023



Subjective cognitive complaints (SCC) have been mostly studied in the context of Alzheimer’s disease in memory clinic settings. The potential of combining SCC with genetic information and blood biomarkers of neurodegenerative diseases for risk assessment of dementia and depression in the absence of dementia among community-dwelling older adults has so far not been explored.


Data were based on a population-based cohort of 6357 participants with a 17-year follow-up (ESTHER study) and a clinic-based cohort of 422 patients. Participants of both cohorts were grouped according to the diagnosis of dementia (yes/no) and the diagnosis of depression in the absence of dementia (yes/no). Participants without dementia included both cognitively unimpaired participants and cognitively impaired participants. Genetic information (APOE ε4 genotype) and blood-based biomarkers of neurodegenerative diseases (glial fibrillary acidic protein; GFAP, neurofilament light chain; NfL, phosphorylated tau181; p-tau181) were available in the ESTHER study and were determined with Simoa Technology in a nested case–control design. Logistic regression models adjusted for relevant confounders were run for the outcomes of all-cause dementia and depression in the absence of dementia.


The results showed that persistent SCC were associated both with increased risk of all-cause dementia and of depression without dementia, independently of the diagnostic setting. However, the results for the ESTHER study also showed that the combination of subjective complaints with APOE ε4 and with increased GFAP concentrations in the blood yielded a substantially increased risk of all-cause dementia (OR 5.35; 95%CI 3.25–8.81, p-value < 0.0001 and OR 7.52; 95%CI 2.79–20.29, p-value < 0.0001, respectively) but not of depression. Associations of NfL and p-tau181 with risk of all-cause dementia and depression were not statistically significant, either alone or in combination with SCC, but increased concentrations of p-tau181 seemed to be associated with an increased risk for depression.


In community and clinical settings, SCC predict both dementia and depression in the absence of dementia. The addition of GFAP could differentiate between the risk of all-cause dementia and the risk of depression among individuals without dementia.