Objective: To characterize and compare measurements of the posterior cingulate glucose metabolism, the hippocampal glucose metabolism, and hippocampal volume so as to distinguish cognitively normal, late-middle-aged persons with 2, 1, or 0 copies of the apolipoprotein E (APOE) ε4 allele, reflecting 3 levels of risk for late-onset Alzheimer disease.
Design: Cross-sectional comparison of measurements of cerebral glucose metabolism using 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography and measurements of brain volume using magnetic resonance imaging in cognitively normal ε4 homozygotes, ε4 heterozygotes, and noncarriers.
Setting: Academic medical center.
Participants: A total of 31 ε4 homozygotes, 42 ε4 heterozygotes, and 76 noncarriers, 49 to 67 years old, matched for sex, age, and educational level.
Main outcome measures: The measurements of posterior cingulate and hippocampal glucose metabolism were characterized using automated region-of-interest algorithms and normalized for whole-brain measurements. The hippocampal volume measurements were characterized using a semiautomated algorithm and normalized for total intracranial volume.
Results: Although there were no significant differences among the 3 groups of participants in their clinical ratings, neuropsychological test scores, hippocampal volumes (P = .60), or hippocampal glucose metabolism measurements (P = .12), there were significant group differences in their posterior cingulate glucose metabolism measurements (P = .001). The APOE ε4 gene dose was significantly associated with posterior cingulate glucose metabolism (r = 0.29, P = .0003), and this association was significantly greater than those with hippocampal volume or hippocampal glucose metabolism (P < .05, determined by use of pairwise Fisher z tests).
Conclusions: Although our findings may depend in part on the analysis algorithms used, they suggest that a reduction in posterior cingulate glucose metabolism precedes a reduction in hippocampal volume or metabolism in cognitively normal persons at increased genetic risk for Alzheimer disease.