The glymphatic pathway, characterised as a cerebral drainage system, influences cognitive function in neurodegenerative diseases; however, evidence is limited in a normal ageing population. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of glymphatic function on ageing-related cognitive decline.
We retrospectively reviewed the Cognitive Impairment, Retinopathy, and Cerebrovascular Lesions in the Elderly (CIRCLE) study, and participants with multi-model magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans and Mini-Mental State Examinations (MMSE) were enrolled. Glymphatic function was evaluated via the diffusion tensor imaging along the perivascular space (DTI-ALPS) index. Regression models were used to estimate the impact of the DTI-ALPS index on cognitive decline cross-sectionally and longitudinally. We further analysed the mediation effect of the DTI-ALPS on age and cognitive function.
A total of 633 participants were included in this study (48.2% female; mean age, 62.8 ± 8.9 years). The DTI-ALPS index was positively associated with cognitive function cross-sectionally (β = 0.108, P = 0.003), and was an independent protective factor for cognitive decline longitudinally (odds ratio (OR) = 0.029, P = 0.007). The DTI-ALPS index declined progressively with ageing (r = −0.319, P <0.001), and the decrease was more pronounced after 65 years of age. Furthermore, the DTI-ALPS index mediated the relationship between age and MMSE score (β = −0.016, P <0.001). The mediation effect accounted for 21.3%, which was higher in subjects aged over 65 years (25.3%) compared with those aged under 65 years (5.3%).
Glymphatic function played a protective role in normal ageing-related cognitive decline, which may serve as a potential therapeutic target against cognitive decline in future.