Somatosensory dysfunction is masked by variable cognitive deficits across patients on the Alzheimer's disease spectrum

Alex I. Wiesman, Victoria M. Mundorf, Chloe C. Casagrande, Sara L. Wolfson, Craig M. Johnson, Pamela E. May, Daniel L. Murman, Tony W Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Background: Alzheimer's disease (AD) is generally thought to spare primary sensory function; however, such interpretations have drawn from a literature that has rarely taken into account the variable cognitive declines seen in patients with AD. As these cognitive domains are now known to modulate cortical somatosensory processing, it remains possible that abnormalities in somatosensory function in patients with AD have been suppressed by neuropsychological variability in previous research. Methods: In this study, we combine magnetoencephalographic (MEG) brain imaging during a paired-pulse somatosensory gating task with an extensive battery of neuropsychological tests to investigate the influence of cognitive variability on estimated differences in somatosensory function between biomarker-confirmed patients on the AD spectrum and cognitively-normal older adults. Findings: We show that patients on the AD spectrum exhibit largely non-significant differences in somatosensory function when cognitive variability is not considered (p-value range: .020–.842). However, once attention and processing speed abilities are considered, robust differences in gamma-frequency somatosensory response amplitude (p < .001) and gating (p = .004) emerge, accompanied by significant statistical suppression effects. Interpretation: These findings suggest that patients with AD exhibit insults to functional somatosensory processing in primary sensory cortices, but these effects are masked by variability in cognitive decline across individuals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103638
StatePublished - Nov 2021


  • Amyloid-β
  • Gamma oscillations
  • Magnetoencephalography
  • Neuropsychology
  • Sensory gating

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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