Family History of Dementia Tied to Early Memory Deficits

Reduced paired-associates learning performance observed long before typical onset of Alzheimer disease

FRIDAY, June 28, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- A first-degree family history of dementia is associated with memory deficits decades before the typical onset of Alzheimer disease, according to a study published online June 18 in eLife.

Joshua S. Talboom, Ph.D., from the Translational Genomics Research Institute in Phoenix, and colleagues developed an internet-based paired-associates learning (PAL) task to assess the influence of family history of dementia on cognition across the life span. The PAL was tested among 59,571 participants (ages 18 to 85 years).

The researchers found that first-degree family history of dementia was associated with lower PAL performance for individuals of both sexes younger than 65 years of age. Age, sex, education, and diabetes modified the effect of family history on PAL performance. Lower PAL scores were associated with the apolipoprotein E ε4 allele in individuals with a positive family history.

"This study supports recommendations underscoring the importance of living a healthy lifestyle and properly treating disease states such as diabetes," Talboom said in a statement. "Our findings specifically highlight the positive effects of such interventions for those with a family history risk of Alzheimer's, opening the door to the development of more targeted risk-reduction approaches to combat the disease."

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