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Am J Med Genet. 2000 Dec 4;96(6):707-11.

Memory performance and the apolipoprotein E polymorphism in a community sample of middle-aged adults.

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  • 1Behavioral Physiology Laboratory, Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15620, USA.


The apolipoprotein E genotype (APOE) is an established risk factor for Alzheimer disease, with the age-at-onset occurring earlier in individuals having at least one APOE epsilon 4 allele, relative to the APOE epsilon 3 or APOE epsilon 2 isoforms. Moreover, nondemented older adults with the APOE epsilon 4 allele also show diminished cognitive performance, particularly on tests of learning and memory, and an accelerated decline in memory performance with increasing age. The current investigation extends the study of the APOE epsilon 4 allele and cognitive performance to healthy, middle-aged adults. A community sample of 220 non-Hispanic Caucasian men and women, aged 24-60 (average age = 46), were genotyped for the APOE polymorphism and completed a battery of neuropsychological tests. Multivariate analyses were conducted on measures of verbal learning and memory (e. g., learning a list of words and recalling them 30 min later), visual memory (e.g., reproducing a previously copied figure from memory), and attention span (e.g., repeating long lists of digits), after adjustments for age, and estimated IQ. Results indicated that performance on learning and memory tasks was significantly poorer in adults having any APOE epsilon 4 allele, relative to adults with APOE epsilon 2 and epsilon 3 genotypes (P <.01). Attention span did not differ by genotype. These findings, the first in a sample of middle-aged adults, suggest that the APOE polymorphism is a marker for age-related decline in memory (detectable prior to overt, clinical manifestations of memory loss), and/or a marker for individual differences in memory ability across the life span. Am. J. Med. Genet. (Neuropsychiatr. Genet.) 96:707-711, 2000.

Copyright 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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