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This study evaluated: (1) apolipoprotein E (APOE) ϵ4 prevalence among Black, Latino, and White older adults, (2) associations of APOE ϵ4 status with baseline level and change over time of cognitive outcomes across groups, and (3) combined impact of APOE ϵ4 prevalence and magnitude of effect on cognitive decline within each racial/ethnic group.
Participants included 297 White, 138 Latino, and 149 Black individuals from the longitudinal UC Davis Diversity Cohort who had APOE genotyping and ≥2 cognitive assessments. Magnitude of associations of ϵ4 with cognitive baseline and change across racial/ethnic groups was tested with multilevel parallel process longitudinal analyses and multiple group models.
ϵ4 prevalence in Black (46%) and White participants (46%) was almost double that of Latino participants (24%). ϵ4 was associated with poorer baseline episodic memory only in White participants (p = .001), but had a moderately strong association with episodic memory change across all racial/ethnic groups (Blacks= −.061 SD/year, Latinos = −.055,Whites= −.055). ϵ4 association with semantic memory change was strongest in White participants (−.071), intermediate in Latino participants (−.041), and weakest in Black participants (−.022).
Calculated cognitive trajectories across racial/ethnic groups were influenced in an additive manner by ϵ4 prevalence and strength of association with cognitive decline within the group. Group differences in ϵ4 prevalences and associations of ϵ4 with cognition may suggest different pathways from APOE to cognitive decline, and, AD possibly having less salient impact on cognitive decline in non-White participants. Differential effects of APOE on episodic memory and non-memory cognition have important implications for understanding how APOE influences late life cognitive decline.
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