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Alzheimer's-linked gene can temporarily impair children's brains: study

By John von Radowitz

An inherited gene connected to Alzheimer's disease can affect the brains and thinking ability of children, research has suggested.

A part of the brain vital to memory was found to be smaller and less well developed in children younger than eight who had the gene variant.

Some of the affected children performed less well in tests of working memory, planning, organisational skills and attention.

However, scientists also found that youngsters with the variation of the apolipoprotein-E gene, called epsilon 4, achieved normal scores in thinking tests after the age of eight.

Lead researcher Dr Linda Chang, from the University of Hawaii in Honolulu, said: "These findings mirror the smaller volumes and steeper decline of the hippocampus volume in the elderly who have the epsilon 4 gene.

"Studying these genes in young children may ultimately give us early indications of who may be at risk for dementia in the future.

"(This could) possibly even help us develop ways to prevent the disease from occurring or to delay the start of the disease."

A limitation of the study acknowledged by the authors was that some of the rarer variant groups, such as epsilon 4/epsilon 4 and epsilon 2/epsilon 4, did not contain a large number of children.

The research was published in the latest edition of the scientific journal Neurology.

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