Hippocampal volumes in cognitively normal persons at genetic risk for Alzheimer's disease
Brain imaging techniques have the potential to characterize neurobiological changes that precede the onset of cognitive impairment in persons at risk for Alzheimer's disease. As previously described, positron emission tomography (PET) was used to compare 11 cognitively normal persons 50 to 62 years of age who were homozygous for the epsilon4 allele of apolipoprotein E and 22 persons without the epsilon4 allele with a reported family history of Alzheimer's dementia who were matched for sex, age, and level of education. The epsilon4 homozygotes had significantly reduced glucose metabolism in the same brain regions as patients with Alzheimer's dementia; the largest reduction was in the posterior cingulate cortex. As described here, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was used to compare hippocampal volumes in the same subject groups. The epsilon4 homozygotes showed nonsignificant trends for smaller left and right hippocampal volumes; overall, smaller hippocampal volumes were associated with reduced performance on a long-term memory test. Whereas PET measurements of cerebral glucose metabolism begin to decrease before the onset of memory decline, MRI measurements of hippocampal volume begin to decrease in conjunction with memory decline in cognitively normal persons at risk for Alzheimer's disease.