Neuropsychology Review

, Volume 24, Issue 3, pp 290–299 | Cite as

Imaging Brain Effects of APOE4 in Cognitively Normal Individuals Across the Lifespan

  • Marine Fouquet
  • Florent L. Besson
  • Julie Gonneaud
  • Renaud La Joie
  • Gaël ChételatEmail author


The ε4 allele of the apolipoprotein E (APOE4) is associated with an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Hence, several studies have compared the brain characteristics of APOE4 carriers versus non-carriers in presymptomatic stages to determine early AD biomarkers. The present review provides an overview on APOE4-related brain changes in cognitively normal individuals, focusing on the main neuroimaging biomarkers for AD, i.e. cortical beta-amyloid (Aβ) deposition, hypometabolism and atrophy. The most consistent findings are observed with Aβ deposition as most studies report significantly higher cortical Aβ load in APOE4 carriers compared with non-carriers. Fluorodeoxyglucose-positron emission tomography studies are rare and tend to show hypometabolism in brain regions typically impaired in AD. Structural magnetic resonance imaging findings are the most numerous and also the most discrepant, showing atrophy in AD-sensitive regions in some studies but contradicting results as well. Altogether, this suggests a graded effect of APOE4, with a predominant effect on Aβ over brain structure and metabolism. Multimodal studies confirm this view and also suggest that APOE4 effects on brain structure and function are mediated by both Aβ-dependent and Aβ-independent pathological processes. Neuroimaging studies on asymptomatic APOE4 carriers offer relevant information to the understanding of early pathological mechanisms of the disease, although caution is needed as to whether APOE4 effects reflect AD pathological processes, and are representative of these effects in non-carriers.


Apolipoprotein ε4 Structural MRI FDG-PET Amyloid PET imaging Preclinical stage Aging 


Conflicts of Interest

None to disclose.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marine Fouquet
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Florent L. Besson
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
  • Julie Gonneaud
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Renaud La Joie
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Gaël Chételat
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.INSERM, U1077CaenFrance
  2. 2.Université de Caen Basse-Normandie, UMR-S1077CaenFrance
  3. 3.Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, UMR-S1077CaenFrance
  4. 4.CHU de Caen, U1077CaenFrance
  5. 5.Department of Nuclear MedicineCHU de CaenCaenFrance

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