Alzheimers Dement. 2023 Jan 15. doi: 10.1002/alz.12937. Online ahead of print.
The neuromodulatory subcortical system (NSS) nuclei are critical hubs for survival, hedonic tone, and homeostasis. Tau-associated NSS degeneration occurs early in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) pathogenesis, long before the emergence of pathognomonic memory dysfunction and cortical lesions. Accumulating evidence supports the role of NSS dysfunction and degeneration in the behavioral and neuropsychiatric manifestations featured early in AD. Experimental studies even suggest that AD-associated NSS degeneration drives brain neuroinflammatory status and contributes to disease progression, including the exacerbation of cortical lesions. Given the important pathophysiologic and etiologic roles that involve the NSS in early AD stages, there is an urgent need to expand our understanding of the mechanisms underlying NSS vulnerability and more precisely detail the clinical progression of NSS changes in AD. Here, the NSS Professional Interest Area of the International Society to Advance Alzheimer’s Research and Treatment highlights knowledge gaps about NSS within AD and provides recommendations for priorities specific to clinical research, biomarker development, modeling, and intervention. HIGHLIGHTS: Neuromodulatory nuclei degenerate in early Alzheimer’s disease pathological stages. Alzheimer’s pathophysiology is exacerbated by neuromodulatory nuclei degeneration. Neuromodulatory nuclei degeneration drives neuropsychiatric symptoms in dementia. Biomarkers of neuromodulatory integrity would be value-creating for dementia care. Neuromodulatory nuclei present strategic prospects for disease-modifying therapies.