Association between lower body temperature and increased tau pathology in cognitively normal older adults

Esther M. Blessing, Ankit Parekh, Rebecca A. Betensky, James Babb, Natalie Saba, Ludovic Debure, Andrew W. Varga, Indu Ayappa, David M. Rapoport, Tracy A. Butler, Mony J. de Leon, Thomas Wisniewski, Brian J. Lopresti, Ricardo S. Osorio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Preclinical studies suggest body temperature (Tb) and consequently brain temperature has the potential to bidirectionally interact with tau pathology in Alzheimer's Disease (AD). Tau phosphorylation is substantially increased by a small (<1 °C) decrease in temperature within the human physiological range, and thermoregulatory nuclei are affected by tau pathology early in the AD continuum. In this study we evaluated whether Tb (as a proxy for brain temperature) is cross-sectionally associated with clinically utilized markers of tau pathology in cognitively normal older adults. Methods: Tb was continuously measured with ingestible telemetry sensors for 48 h. This period included two nights of nocturnal polysomnography to delineate whether Tb during waking vs sleep is differentially associated with tau pathology. Tau phosphorylation was assessed with plasma and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) tau phosphorylated at threonine 181 (P-tau), sampled the day following Tb measurement. In addition, neurofibrillary tangle (NFT) burden in early Braak stage regions was imaged with PET-MR using the [18F]MK-6240 radiotracer on average one month later. Results: Lower Tb was associated with increased NFT burden, as well as increased plasma and CSF P-tau levels (p < 0.05). NFT burden was associated with lower Tb during waking (p < 0.05) but not during sleep intervals. Plasma and CSF P-tau levels were highly correlated with each other (p < 0.05), and both variables were correlated with tau tangle radiotracer uptake (p < 0.05). Conclusions: These results, the first available for human, suggest that lower Tb in older adults may be associated with increased tau pathology. Our findings add to the substantial preclinical literature associating lower body and brain temperature with tau hyperphosphorylation. Clinical trial number: NCT03053908.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105748
JournalNeurobiology of Disease
StatePublished - Sep 2022


  • Aging
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Body temperature
  • Neurofibrillary tangle
  • Phosphorylation
  • Tau
  • [F]MK-6240

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology


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