Diurnal cortisol, neuroinflammation, and neuroimaging visual rating scales in memory clinic patients

Document Type



Brain and Mind Institute


Background: Neuroinflammation is a hallmark of the Alzheimer’s disease (AD) pathogenic process. Cortisol dysregulation may increase AD risk and is related to brain atrophy. This cross-sectional study aims to examine interactions of cortisol patterns and neuroinflammation markers in their association with neuroimaging correlates.

Method: 134 participants were recruited from the Karolinska University Hospital memory clinic (Stockholm, Sweden). Four visual rating scales were applied to magnetic resonance imaging or computed tomography scans: medial temporal lobe atrophy (MTA), global cortical atrophy (GCA), white matter lesions (WML), and posterior atrophy. Participants provided saliva samples for assessment of diurnal cortisol patterns, and underwent lumbar punctures for cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) sampling. Three cortisol measures were used: the cortisol awakening response, total daily output, and the ratio of awakening to bedtime levels. Nineteen CSF neuroinflammation markers were categorized into five composite scores: proinflammatory cytokines, other cytokines, angiogenesis markers, vascular injury markers, and glial activation markers. Ordinal logistic regressions were conducted to assess associations between cortisol patterns, neuroinflammation scores, and visual rating scales, and interactions between cortisol patterns and neuroinflammation scores in relation to visual rating scales.

Result: Higher levels of angiogenesis markers were associated with more severe WML. Some evidence was found for interactions between dysregulated diurnal cortisol patterns and greater neuroinflammation-related biomarkers in relation to more severe GCA and WML. No associations were found between cortisol patterns and visual rating scales.

Publication (Name of Journal)

Brain, behavior, and immunity