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Heterogeneity in verbal memory: a marker of preclinical Alzheimer's disease?

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Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System, California, USA.


Demonstrations of memory changes in those at risk for Alzheimer's disease by the presence of the APOE e4 allele have been inconsistent to date. The present study went beyond traditional analyses of central tendency (i.e., group differences on mean test scores) and also conducted distribution analyses to search for subtle cognitive differences in subgroups of normal-functioning elderly persons with the APOE e4 genotype. The results of the study revealed that (a) the e4 and non-e4 groups failed to differ in terms of their mean scores on tests of memory and verbal skills; and (b) relative to the non-e4 group, the e4 subjects had significantly greater heterogeneity of variance on the memory measures but not on fundamental verbal skills. Logistic regression analyses indicated that the discrepancy in scores on the memory measures was a significant predictor of genotype group membership (82% correct classification rate). Implications of these findings for the detection of a preclinical phase of AD are discussed.

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