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Maternal History of Alzheimer's Tied to Brain Atrophy

Regional progressive gray matter atrophy independent of gender, age, APOE4 gene status

TUESDAY, March 1 (HealthDay News) -- Cognitively intact older people with a maternal family history of Alzheimer's disease (AD) show progressive brain atrophy in areas associated with the condition, according to a study published in the March 1 issue of Neurology.

Robyn A. Honea, D.Phil., of the University of Kansas School of Medicine in Kansas City, and colleagues investigated patterns of gray matter atrophy in cognitively healthy elderly subjects with and without a family history of late-onset AD. A total of 53 patients, including 11 with a maternal history, 10 with paternal history, and 32 with no family history of AD, underwent magnetic resonance imaging at baseline and two years later. Regional differences in atrophy were examined, controlling for age, gender, and Apolipoprotein E4 (APOE4) status.

The researchers found that whole-brain gray matter atrophy and cerebrospinal fluid expansion were significantly increased in cognitively healthy individuals with a family history of AD. Further analysis revealed that only maternal family history was associated with longitudinal brain change measures. Subjects with a maternal family history had significantly more atrophy in known AD-vulnerable areas, specifically the precuneus and parahippocampus/hippocampus regions, compared to those with a paternal family history and without a family history. This result was independent of APOE4 status, gender, and age. Among APOE4-positive participants, there was more atrophy in the frontal cortex compared to APOE4-negative individuals.

"Our primary finding of progressive atrophy in cognitively normal maternal family history individuals contributes to growing data pointing toward a possible maternal transmission of risk for AD," the authors write.

Several authors disclosed financial relationships with the pharmaceutical industry.

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