Rebecca Amariglio, PhD, of the Center for Alzheimer Research and Treatment in BWH’s Department of Neurology and BWH’s Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases, and colleagues have found that self-reported concerns about cognitive decline and memory loss are associated with early biomarker evidence of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) pathology. Their published study appears in Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

When an older person reports concerns about memory loss or cognitive decline, he or she may be dismissed and labeled as the “worried well,” but the work suggests that these self-reported symptoms may be early and important clues. The research team reports that amyloid-beta and neurodegeneration, two known biomarkers of preclinical Alzheimer’s disease (AD), were linked to greater self-reported memory concerns in normal, older individuals.

The study, which included 257 participants, found that biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease were much more likely to be found in people who reported greater cognitive concerns than their counterparts, even when their performance on objective memory tests was in the normal range.

“In the clinical setting, a patient’s report of memory difficulties should not be disregarded, despite an otherwise normal examination,” said Amariglio, corresponding author of the study.

The new work also has important implications for clinical trials to test preventative treatments, in which researchers intend to recruit individuals who may be more likely to have preclinical biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease.