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Neuropsychology. 2002 Apr;16(2):254-74.

The apolipoprotein E gene, attention, and brain function.

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  • 1Cognitive Science Laboratory, Catholic University of America, Washington, DC 20064, USA.


The epsilon4 allele of the apolipoprotein E (ApoE) gene is associated with alterations in brain function and is a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease (AD). Changes in components of visuospatial attention with ApoE-epsilon4, aging, and AD are described. Healthy middle-aged adults without dementia who have the ApoE-epsilon4 gene show deficits in spatial attention and working memory that are qualitatively similar to those seen in clinically diagnosed AD patients. The findings support an association between ApoE polymorphism and specific components of visuospatial attention. Molecular mechanisms that may mediate the ApoE-attention link by modulating cholinergic neurotransmission to the posterior parietal cortex are discussed. Studies of attention and brain function in ApoE-epsilon4 carriers without dementia can advance knowledge of the genetics of visual attention, may enhance understanding of the preclinical phase of AD, and may lead to better methods for early AD detection.

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