Even if optimally treated, AF is associated with increased morbidity and mortality. Recent studies have also indicated a higher prevalence of dementia among AF patients compared to matched controls [13, 26]. Increased plasma concentration of certain cytokines is associated with dementia  and AF patients are known to have elevated levels of several cytokines [27, 28]. Previous studies have shown that treatment with anti-inflammatory effects can prevent postoperative AF [6, 29–31] and prevent recurrence after external cardioversion [32, 33], but it is not known whether such treatment can also affect the negative consequences of the arrhythmia on neurocognitive functions.
We have recently shown that intensive lipid-lowering treatment reduces high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) and a number of other peripheral markers of inflammation in patients with AF . Although a previous study  indicated that a combination of simvastatin and ezetimibe is no better than simvastatin alone in affecting intima-media thickness in patients with familial hypercholesterolemia, each statin and lipid-lowering treatment must be evaluated independently. Furthermore, our group of patients consisted of older AF patients without significantly elevated cholesterol levels and the achieved lipid-lowering effect was higher in our study compared to the previous. In the JUPITER trial, use of rosuvastatin was associated with a reduction in vascular events in a primary prophylaxis setting in patients with elevated C-reactive protein (CRP) . In the present study, we demonstrate for the first time that there is a statistically significant correlation between reduction in a series of inflammatory markers and delayed neurocognitive decline, especially memory and speed of information processing in older patients with AF. However, whether this correlation indicates a causal relationship isunclear. Furthermore, from our results it is only possible to determine the combined effect of atorvastatin and ezetimibe, and not the individual contribution of each drug. The relative role of the various inflammatory markers is not clear, nor is the reason why some markers correlated with neurocognitive decline and some did not. It may be a result of the relatively low number of participants (type II error) but as will be seen below, other investigators have also demonstrated correlation between cognitive function and some, but not all, of the inflammatory markers measured.
An inverse relationship between plasma concentration of IL-2 and the probability of successful cardioversion after the administration of amiodarone has been demonstrated . In our study, changes in IL-2 correlated with the rate of decline in cognitive function. To the best of our knowledge, the association between AF, neurocognitive function and the inflammatory markers, IL-1RA, IL-9, IL-12 and MIP-1β, has not previously been studied. In a recent study in rats, Ribeiro demonstrated that induction of a pro-inflammatory state by administration of metylmalonic acid resulted in increased levels of interleukin-1β(IL-1ß) and tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), both in blood and in the cerebral cortex of the animals, as well as a reduction in spatial orientation .
We were unable to show any correlation between inflammatory markers and changes in white matter lesions of the brain. Furthermore, there were no statistically significant correlations between changes in inflammatory mediators and changes in amygdala and hippocampus volume. However, our data indicate that in the treatment group there was a trend towards a decrease in white matter lesions, while the placebo group showed an increase. One possibility is that the smaller initial white matter lesion volume attenuated the treatment effect. Another is that statistical power was insufficient due to the relatively small group of participants. Furthermore, the follow-up time may have been too short to detect differences in progress. The reason why the decline in only some domains and cognitive tests correlated with changes in inflammatory parameters is unclear. One possibility is that there are different mechanisms for the decline across the various functions, probably time-dependent, of which only some are susceptible to the effects of anti-inflammatory therapy. Another possible explanation could be the relatively low number of patients in our study, with a risk for type II statistical errors. However, the effect of powerful lipid-lowering treatment on inflammatory and hemostatic parameters reported previously , and the correlation between such findings and changes in cognitive functions, and certain brain volumes presented in this report, support the notion that there is a link between inflammation, thrombosis and dementia in AF. Thus, larger, long-term studies are warranted to confirm and extend our findings.