Although it is established that apolipoprotein E (APOE) e4 allele increases the risk of Alzheimer's disease (AD), epidemiological studies indicate that genetic risk decreases late in life. This raises the question of whether the effects of APOE on cognition that are seen in midlife arise from a cognitive phenotype of APOE or from the presence of early AD in some APOE-e4 carriers. The authors addressed this question by comparing the cognitive consequences of variation in the APOE gene between individuals over the age of 80 (old-old) and middle-aged and young-old individuals. A spatially cued discrimination paradigm-previously shown to be sensitive to AD and to APOE genotype-required a speeded categorization of a target letter following cues that were valid, invalid, or neutral in predicting target location. Results revealed greater costs of invalid cues in the APOE-e4 carriers of middle-aged and young-old, but not old-old, groups. The dissipation of the APOE effect in old-old individuals at lower risk of AD suggests that visuospatial attention impairments seen as early as midlife in APOE-e4 carriers may be a preclinical marker of AD.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology