Association of Physical Activity and APOE Genotype With Longitudinal Cognitive Change in Early Parkinson Disease

Neurology. 2021 May 11;96(19):e2429-e2437. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000011852. Epub 2021 Mar 31.


Objective: To determine whether greater physical activity could modify the negative association of APOE ε4 with longitudinal cognitive changes in early Parkinson disease (PD) and to uncover the disease-specific mechanism for explaining such benefits of physical activity.

Methods: We used data from the Parkinson's Progression Markers Initiative cohort. Because self-reported physical activity, measured by the Physical Activity Scale of the Elderly, was initiated at 2 years after enrollment, this longitudinal analysis was based on assessments performed at years 2, 3, and 4. Cognitive function was measured annually with the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA). Dopamine transporter (DAT) imaging was performed at years 2 and 4. We assessed the interactive associations between physical activity and the APOE ε4 allele on the longitudinal changes in MoCA scores and striatal DAT activities.

Results: A total of 173 patients with early PD (age 63.3 ± 10.0 years, 27% APOE ε4 carriers) were included. The APOE ε4 allele showed a steeper rate of cognitive decline than the non-APOE ε4 allele (estimate -1.33, 95% confidence interval [CI] -2.12 to -0.47, p = 0.002). However, there was a significant interaction between physical activity and APOE ε4 such that higher physical activity was related to slower APOE ε4-related cognitive decline (estimate 0.007, 95% CI 0.003-0.011, p = 0.001). No significant interaction was found between physical activity and the APOE ε4 allele regarding the change in striatal DAT activities.

Conclusion: Increased physical activity attenuated APOE ε4-related vulnerability to early cognitive decline in patients with PD. This protective effect did not appear to be mediated by striatal dopaminergic function.

Trial registration information: Identifier: NCT01141023.

Classification of evidence: This study provides Class II evidence that increased physical activity was associated with decreased APOE ε4-related early cognitive decline in patients with PD.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Apolipoprotein E4 / genetics*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / genetics*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / prevention & control
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / psychology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Parkinson Disease / genetics*
  • Parkinson Disease / psychology*
  • Parkinson Disease / therapy


  • Apolipoprotein E4

Associated data