Putting attention in the spotlight: The influence of APOE genotype on visual search in mid adulthood

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The Apolipoprotein E e4 allele is associated with greater cognitive decline with age, yet effects of this gene are also observed earlier in the lifespan. This research explores genotype differences (e2, e3, e4) in the allocation of visuospatial attention in mid-adulthood. Sixty-six volunteers, aged 45–55 years, completed two paradigms probing the active selection of information at the focus of attention (a dynamic scaling task) and perceptual capacity differences. Two methods of statistical comparison (parametric statistics, Bayesian inference) found no significant difference between e4 carriers and the homozygous e3 group on either the dynamic scaling or perceptual load task. E2 carriers, however, demonstrated less efficient visual search performance on the dynamic scaling task. The lack of an e4 difference in visuospatial attention, despite previous suggestion in the literature of genotype effects, indicates that select attentional processes are intact in e4 carriers in mid-adulthood. The association of e2 genotype with slower visual search performance complicates the premised protective effects of this allele in cognitive ageing.

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