Having a Parent With Dementia May Affect Memory in Midlife

April 13, 2009

April 13, 2009

If your mother or father has Alzheimer’s disease, you may be at increased risk of c in middle age, according to a new report. The findings are to be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 61st Annual Meeting in Seattle this spring.

Researchers at Boston University analzyed data from the Framingham Heart Study, a long-running study of people living in Massaschusetts. They gathered data on 715 children of the original study, looking at such factors as memory, thinking abilities, and brain volume. They also tested for a gene called APOE-E4, which is known to increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s late in life. Their average age was 59.

One group of 282 people had one or both parents with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. The parents of the remaining 433 did not have an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

Among people who were carriers of the APOE-E4 gene, those who had parents with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia were at two- to three-fold risk of performing poorly on verbal and visual memory tests compared to those who did not have a parent with Alzheimer’s.

“This result in people with parents who have Alzheimer’s disease is equivalent to about 15 years of brain aging,” said study author Stephanie Debette, M.D., Ph.D., of Boston University. “The effect was largely limited to those who have the APOE-E4 gene, which supports the idea that the gene is probably at least partially responsible for the transmission of Alzheimer’s disease risk between generations.”

The authors noted that despite the low scores on some aspects of the memory test, all the individuals were functioning normally and not everyone with the APOE-E4 gene scored poorly.  They called for further testing to determine to what extent a family history of dementia, coupled with the presence of the APOE-E4 gene, really affects memory in middle age, and whether such memory problems may result in an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease late in life.

By www.ALZinfo.org. Reviewed by William J. Netzer, Ph.D., Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation at The Rockefeller University.


Stephanie Debette, Alexa Beiser, Rhosa Au, et al: “Parental Dementia and Alzheimer Disease Are associated With Poorer Memory in Middle-Aged Adults: the Framingham Offspring Study.” American Academy of Neurology 61st Annual Meeting, Spring 2009.


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