The APOE e4 allele has been linked to poorer cognitive aging and enhanced dementia risk. Previous imaging studies have used subsequent memory paradigms to probe hippocampal function in e4 carriers across the age range, and evidence suggests a pattern of hippocampal overactivation in young adult e4 carriers.
In this study, we employed a word-based subsequent memory task under fMRI; pupillometry data were also acquired as an index of cognitive effort. Participants (26 non-e4 carriers and 28 e4 carriers) performed an incidental encoding task (presented as word categorization), followed by a surprise old/new recognition task after a 40 minute delay.
In e4 carriers only, subsequently remembered words were linked to increased hippocampal activity. Across all participants, increased pupil diameter differentiated subsequently remembered from forgotten words, and neural activity covaried with pupil diameter in cuneus and precuneus. These effects were weaker in e4 carriers, and e4 carriers did not show greater pupil diameter to remembered words. In the recognition phase, genotype status also modulated hippocampal activity: here, however, e4 carriers failed to show the conventional pattern of greater hippocampal activity to novel words.
Overall, neural activity changes were unstable in e4 carriers, failed to respond to novelty, and did not link strongly to cognitive effort, as indexed by pupil diameter. This provides further evidence of abnormal hippocampal recruitment in young adult e4 carriers, manifesting as both up and downregulation of neural activity, in the absence of behavioral performance differences.
2016), Disrupted neural activity patterns to novelty and effort in young adult APOE-e4 carriers performing a subsequent memory task. Brain and Behavior, 00: 1–11. e00612, doi: 10.1002/brb3.612, , , , and (