- Reduced hippocampal volume in healthy young ApoE4 carriers: an MRI study (2012)
- The E4 allele of the ApoE gene has consistently been shown to be related to an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease (AD). The E4 allele is also associated with functional and structural grey matter (GM) changes in healthy young, middle-aged and older subjects. Here, we assess volumes of deep grey matter structures of 22 healthy younger ApoE4 carriers and 22 non-carriers (20–38 years). Volumes of the nucleus accumbens, amygdala, caudate nucleus, hippocampus, pallidum, putamen, thalamus and brain stem were calculated by FMRIB's Integrated Registration and Segmentation Tool (FIRST) algorithm. A significant drop in volume was found in the right hippocampus of ApoE4 carriers (ApoE4+) relative to non-carriers (ApoE4−), while there was a borderline significant decrease in the volume of the left hippocampus of ApoE4 carriers. The volumes of no other structures were found to be significantly affected by genotype. Atrophy has been found to be a sensitive marker of neurodegenerative changes, and our results show that within a healthy young population, the presence of the ApoE4+ carrier gene leads to volume reduction in a structure that is vitally important for memory formation. Our results suggest that the hippocampus may be particularly vulnerable to further degeneration in ApoE4 carriers as they enter middle and old age. Although volume reductions were noted bilaterally in the hippocampus, atrophy was more pronounced in the right hippocampus. This finding relates to previous work which has noted a compensatory increase in right hemisphere activity in ApoE4 carriers in response to preclinical declines in memory function. Possession of the ApoE4 allele may lead to greater predilection for right hemisphere atrophy even in healthy young subjects in their twenties.
- White matter differences between healthy young ApoE4 carriers and non-carriers identified with tractography and support vector machines (2012)
- The apolipoprotein E4 (ApoE4) is an established risk factor for Alzheimer's disease (AD). Previous work has shown that this allele is associated with functional (fMRI) changes as well structural grey matter (GM) changes in healthy young, middle-aged and older subjects. Here, we assess the diffusion characteristics and the white matter (WM) tracts of healthy young (20-38 years) ApoE4 carriers and non-carriers. No significant differences in diffusion indices were found between young carriers (ApoE4+) and non-carriers (ApoE4-). There were also no significant differences between the groups in terms of normalised GM or WM volume. A feature selection algorithm (ReliefF) was used to select the most salient voxels from the diffusion data for subsequent classification with support vector machines (SVMs). SVMs were capable of classifying ApoE4 carrier and non-carrier groups with an extremely high level of accuracy. The top 500 voxels selected by ReliefF were then used as seeds for tractography which identified a WM network that included regions of the parietal lobe, the cingulum bundle and the dorsolateral frontal lobe. There was a non-significant decrease in volume of this WM network in the ApoE4 carrier group. Our results indicate that there are subtle WM differences between healthy young ApoE4 carriers and non-carriers and that the WM network identified may be particularly vulnerable to further degeneration in ApoE4 carriers as they enter middle and old age.