Undergraduate Honors Thesis


Investigating the Relationship Between Neurofilament Light (NfL) Concentrations in Blood Plasma and Cognitive Task Performance in Healthy Older Adults Public Deposited

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  • When someone is suffering from neurodegeneration, levels of neurofilament light (NfL), a neuronal cytoskeleton protein important for axonal integrity, in blood plasma increase. A key hallmark of neurodegenerative disorders is cognitive impairment, and previous literature suggests that NfL has potential to gauge the extent of cognitive change in those actively suffering from neurodegenerative diseases. There have been fewer studies, however, on if NfL can be used to assess healthy, non-diseased older individuals’ cognitive ability. If such a link could be identified, NfL could be a useful biomarker for pre-onset risk assessments in degenerative disorders of the brain. A sample of 40 participants aged 65 and older were utilized to investigate if there was an association between cognitive performance and NfL in healthy older adults. It was hypothesized that as NfL concentrations in plasma increased, scores on three cognitive tasks (the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Task, Flanker task, and Picture Sequence Memory Task) would decrease. Three separate multiple regression analyses conducted for each cognitive task compared to concentrations of NfL (controlled for age and gender) showed that only performance on the Picture Sequence Memory Task could be predicted by NfL levels in the blood. This suggests that NfL concentrations may be useful in predicting the capacity of someone’s visual working memory, but more research on this potential cognitive blood biomarker must be conducted to imply efficacy.

    Keywords: neurofilament light, cognition, older adults, biomarker, neurodegeneration

Date Awarded
  • 2023-04-03
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Last Modified
  • 2023-04-18
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