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The current conceptualization of Alzheimer disease (AD) is driven by the amyloid hypothesis, in which a deterministic chain of events leads from amyloid deposition and then tau deposition to neurodegeneration and progressive cognitive impairment. This model fits autosomal dominant AD but is less applicable to sporadic AD. Owing to emerging information regarding the complex biology of AD and the challenges of developing amyloid-targeting drugs, the amyloid hypothesis needs to be reconsidered. Here we propose a probabilistic model of AD in which three variants of AD (autosomal dominant AD, APOE ε4-related sporadic AD and APOE ε4-unrelated sporadic AD) feature decreasing penetrance and decreasing weight of the amyloid pathophysiological cascade, and increasing weight of stochastic factors (environmental exposures and lower-risk genes). Together, these variants account for a large share of the neuropathological and clinical variability observed in people with AD. The implementation of this model in research might lead to a better understanding of disease pathophysiology, a revision of the current clinical taxonomy and accelerated development of strategies to prevent and treat AD.

Original publication




Journal article


Nat Rev Neurosci

Publication Date