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Abnormal tau, a hallmark Alzheimer’s disease (AD) pathology, may appear in the locus coeruleus (LC) decades before AD symptom onset. Reports of subjective cognitive decline are also often present prior to formal diagnosis. Yet, the relationship between LC structural integrity and subjective cognitive decline has remained unexplored. Here, we aimed to explore these potential associations.
We examined 381 community-dwelling men (mean age = 67.58; SD = 2.62) in the Vietnam Era Twin Study of Aging who underwent LC-sensitive magnetic resonance imaging and completed the Everyday Cognition scale to measure subjective cognitive decline along with their selected informants. Mixed models examined the associations between rostral-middle and caudal LC integrity and subjective cognitive decline after adjusting for depressive symptoms, physical morbidities, and family. Models also adjusted for current objective cognitive performance and objective cognitive decline to explore attenuation.
For participant ratings, lower rostral-middle LC contrast to noise ratio (LCCNR) was associated with significantly greater subjective decline in memory, executive function, and visuospatial abilities. For informant ratings, lower rostral-middle LCCNR was associated with significantly greater subjective decline in memory only. Associations remained after adjusting for current objective cognition and objective cognitive decline in respective domains.
Lower rostral-middle LC integrity is associated with greater subjective cognitive decline. Although not explained by objective cognitive performance, such a relationship may explain increased AD risk in people with subjective cognitive decline as the LC is an important neural substrate important for higher order cognitive processing, attention, and arousal and one of the first sites of AD pathology.
Heavy alcohol consumption is associated with poorer cognitive function in older adults. Although understudied in middle-aged adults, the relationship between alcohol and cognition may also be influenced by genetics such as the apolipoprotein (ApoE) ε4 allele, a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. We examined the relationship between alcohol consumption, ApoE genotype, and cognition in middle-aged adults and hypothesized that light and/or moderate drinkers (≤2 drinks per day) would show better cognitive performance than heavy drinkers or non-drinkers. Additionally, we hypothesized that the association between alcohol use and cognitive function would differ by ApoE genotype (ε4+ vs. ε4−).
Participants were 1266 men from the Vietnam Era Twin Study of Aging (VETSA; M age = 56; range 51–60) who completed a neuropsychological battery assessing seven cognitive abilities: general cognitive ability (GCA), episodic memory, processing speed, executive function, abstract reasoning, verbal fluency, and visuospatial ability. Alcohol consumption was categorized into five groups: never, former, light, moderate, and heavy.
In fully adjusted models, there was no significant main effect of alcohol consumption on cognitive functions. However, there was a significant interaction between alcohol consumption and ApoE ε4 status for GCA and episodic memory, such that the relationship of alcohol consumption and cognition was stronger in ε4 carriers. The ε4+ heavy drinking subgroup had the poorest GCA and episodic memory.
Presence of the ε4 allele may increase vulnerability to the deleterious effects of heavy alcohol consumption. Beneficial effects of light or moderate alcohol consumption were not observed.
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