Possession of an APOE e4 allele is an established risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, while the less commonly studied e2 variant is premised to offer some protection. This research explores the purported deleterious-protective dichotomy of APOE variants on attentional control in mid-adulthood. 66 volunteers, aged 45-55 years, completed three tasks that provided complementary measures of attentional control: prospective memory, sustained attention and inhibition. Performance was compared between e2 carriers, e4 carriers and e3 homozygotes (the population norm). Carriers of the e4 allele showed subtle disadvantages, compared to the e3 group, in accuracy of Stroop task and prospective memory performance. Contrary to expectations, e2 carriers showed performance disadvantages in sustained attention. The finding of detrimental effects in attentional control for both e4 and e2 complicates the current model that proposes opposing effects of these variants on later-life cognition. Future research is needed to understand how cognitive differences develop with increasing age, and the physiological mechanisms that underpin these changes.
The APOE paradox: how do attentional control differences in mid-adulthood reflect risk of late-life cognitive decline
Neurobiology of Aging
Claire Lancaster, Naji Tabet, Jennifer Rusted