Objective: The purpose of this study was to characterize the relationship between whole brain atrophy rates and three levels of genetic risk for Alzheimer's disease in cognitively normal persons. The authors previously found accelerated whole brain atrophy rates in patients with probable Alzheimer's disease by computing changes in brain volume from sequential magnetic resonance images (MRIs). Methods: The authors assessed 36 late-middle-aged persons from three genetic groups: those with two, one, and no copies of the apolipoprotein E (APOE) ε4 allele, a common Alzheimer's disease susceptibility gene. The participants had clinical ratings, neuropsychological tests, and volumetric T1-weighted MRIs during a baseline visit and again approximately 2 years later. Two different image-analysis techniques, brain boundary shift integration and iterative principal component analysis, were used to compute whole brain atrophy rates. Results: While there were no baseline, follow-up, or between-visit differences in the clinical ratings or neuropsychological test scores among the three subject groups, whole brain atrophy rates were significantly greater in the ε4 homozygote group than in noncarriers and were significantly correlated with ε4 gene dose (i.e., the number of ε4 alleles in a person's APOE genotype). Conclusion: Since APOE ε4 gene dose is associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease and a younger median age at dementia onset, this study suggests an association between the risk of Alzheimer's disease and accelerated brain atrophy rates before the onset of cognitive impairment.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Psychiatry and Mental health