Fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography (PET) studies have found that patients with Alzheimer's dementia (AD) have abnormally low rates of cerebral glucose metabolism in posterior cingulate, parietal, temporal, and prefrontal cortex. We previously found that cognitively normal, late-middle-aged carriers of the apolipoprotein E epsilon4 allele, a common susceptibility gene for late-onset Alzheimer's dementia, have abnormally low rates of glucose metabolism in the same brain regions as patients with probable AD. We now consider whether epsilon4 carriers have these regional brain abnormalities as relatively young adults. Apolipoprotein E genotypes were established in normal volunteers 20-39 years of age. Clinical ratings, neuropsychological tests, magnetic resonance imaging, and PET were performed in 12 epsilon4 heterozygotes, all with the epsilon3/epsilon4 genotype, and 15 noncarriers of the epsilon4 allele, 12 of whom were individually matched for sex, age, and educational level. An automated algorithm was used to generate an aggregate surface-projection map that compared regional PET measurements in the two groups. The young adult epsilon4 carriers and noncarriers did not differ significantly in their sex, age, educational level, clinical ratings, or neuropsychological test scores. Like previously studied patients with probable AD and late-middle-aged epsilon4 carriers, the young epsilon4 carriers had abnormally low rates of glucose metabolism bilaterally in the posterior cingulate, parietal, temporal, and prefrontal cortex. Carriers of a common Alzheimer's susceptibility gene have functional brain abnormalities in young adulthood, several decades before the possible onset of dementia.