Philadelphia, PA, August 27, 2007 High stress levels may contribute to memory loss among people at risk for developing Alzheimers disease. The 4 variant of the apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene contributes to the risk for memory loss related to Alzheimers disease. Similarly, high circulating levels of cortisol, associated with high stress levels, also impairs memory. However, the interactive effects of this risk genotype and chronic stress are not well understood, so a new study being published in the September 1st issue of Biological Psychiatry was designed to explore this relationship.
In their study, Peavy and colleagues performed genotyping and measured the chronic stress level in 91 older, healthy subjects (mean age was 78.8 years). Those low on stress or without the APOE- 4 risk factor performed better on memory measures than those with high stress or those positive for APOE-4, respectively. Those individuals experiencing high stress and who were positive for APOE- 4 showed the greatest memory impairment.
One of the authors, Guerry M Peavy, Ph.D., comments, "Perhaps the most interesting result of the study was the interaction we found between genetic status and the experience of high stress events. That is, for some aspects of memory, highly stressful experiences had a detrimental effect only on those individuals who carried the APOE-4 allele.
John H. Krystal, M.D., Editor of Biological Psychiatry and affiliated with both Yale University School of Medicine and the VA Connecticut Healthcare System, adds:
This is a very exciting time in Alzheimers disease (AD) researchThe findings of Peavy et al. suggest that environmental factors, like chronic stress, may interact with an AD risk genotype, APOE-4, to promote age-related memory impairment. These data raise the possibility that psycho-social interventions and psychotherapeutic medications might enhance the effectiveness of medication treatment strategies aimed at prese
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