Age-related cognitive decline trajectories were compared in apolipoprotein E (APOE) e4 homozygotes (HMZ), heterozygotes (HTZ), and noncarriers (NC) in the absence of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and Alzheimer’s dementia (AD).
At how young an age memory decline diverges from that of noncarriers in healthy people with elevated genetic risk for late-onset AD due to APOE e4 is unknown.
Cognitively normal participants age 21-97 years were recruited with local ads, grouped using an APOE e4 enrichment paradigm, and had longitudinal neuropsychological testing. Anyone who developed MCI or dementia during followup was excluded. Acceleration of the rates of decline for predetermined cognitive measures were compared between APOE e4/4 HMZ, e3/4 HTZ, and e4 NC using a mixed model for longitudinal change with age.
79 e4 HMZ, 238 HTZ and 498 NC were included. APOE e4 carriers were younger (mean 58.0 vs 61.4 years, p<0.001) and had more years of followup (5.3 v 4.7 years, p=0.01), with equivalent education (15.4 years) and gender (69% women). With accelerating declines beginning prior to age 60 in e4 carriers, longitudinal decline in memory in e4 carriers accelerated more than in NC (p=0.0253) with a possible e4 gene-dose effect (p=0.0231) in which longitudinal decline in e4 HMZ accelerated more than in NC (p=0.0087). Weaker similar effects were also found on a visuospatial and general mental status measure.
Age-related memory decline in APOE e4 carriers diverges from NC prior to age 60 and appears most severe in HMZ despite ongoing normal clinical status.