Predictors of Heterogeneity in Cognitive Function: APOE-e4, Sex, Education, Depression, and Vascular Risk

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OBJECTIVE: Mild cognitive impairment and dementia are clinically heterogeneous disorders influenced by diverse risk factors. Improved characterization of the effect of multiple risk factors influence on specific cognitive functions may improve understanding of mechanisms in early cognitive change and lead to more effective interventions. METHODS: Structural equation modeling (SEM) simultaneously examined the effects of modifiable (education, depression, and metabolic/vascular risk) and nonmodifiable risk factors (age, sex, and apolipoprotein E-ɛ4 allele [APOE-e4] status) on specific cognitive domains in 461 cognitively normal older adults. RESULTS: The hypothesized model(s) provided an adequate fit for the data. Sex differences in cognition, depression, and vascular risk were found. On average, men were higher in vascular risk with generally lower cognitive performance than women; women were more likely to have depression. APOE-e4 associated with depression but not age, sex, or metabolic/vascular risk. Depression associated with lower executive attention, memory, and language performance, whereas metabolic/vascular risk associated with lower executive attention, memory, and working memory. Older age and lower education are associated with worse performance across the cognitive domains. The combined risk factors accounted for 16%-47% of the variance in the cognitive domains. CONCLUSIONS: Results highlight the combined effect of risk factors on cognitive function. Future research is needed to determine whether the multifactorial risk effects on cognition vary by sex. Precision medicine approaches that integrate neuropsychological services may improve diagnostic accuracy and earlier identification of those at risk of cognitive decline.

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Archives of clinical neuropsychology : the official journal of the National Academy of Neuropsychologists

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