Genetic Burden for Late-Life Neurodegenerative Disease and Its Association With Early-Life Lipids, Brain, Behavior, and Cognition

Sander Lamballais, Ryan L. Muetzel, Mohammad Arfan Ikram, Henning Tiemeier, Meike W. Vernooij, Tonya White, Hieab H.H. Adams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background: Genetics play a significant role in the etiology of late-life neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and frontotemporal dementia. Part of the individual differences in risk for these diseases can be traced back decades before the onset of disease symptoms. Previous studies have shown evidence for plausible links of apolipoprotein E (APOE), the most important genetic marker for Alzheimer’s disease, with early-life cognition and neuroimaging markers. We aimed to assess whether genome-wide genetic burden for the aforementioned neurodegenerative diseases plays a role in early-life processes. Methods: We studied children from the Generation R Study, a prospective birth cohort. APOE genotypes and polygenic genetic burdens for Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and frontotemporal dementia were obtained through genome-wide genotyping. Non-verbal intelligence was assessed through cognitive tests at the research center around the age of 6 years, and educational attainment through a national school performance test around the age of 11 years. The Child Behavior Checklist was administered around the age of 10 years, and data from the anxious/depressed, withdrawn/depressed, and the internalizing behavior problems scales were used. Children participated in a neuroimaging study when they were 10 years old, in which structural brain metrics were obtained. Lipid serum profiles, which may be influenced by APOE genotype, were assessed from venal blood obtained around the age of 6 years. The sample size per analysis varied between 1,641 and 3,650 children due to completeness of data. Results: We did not find evidence that APOE genotype or the polygenic scores impact on childhood nonverbal intelligence, educational attainment, internalizing behavior, and global brain structural measures including total brain volume and whole brain fractional anisotropy (all p > 0.05). Carriership of the APOE ε2 allele was associated with lower and APOE ε4 with higher low-density lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations when compared to APOE ε3/ε3 carriers. Conclusion: We found no evidence that genetic burden for late-life neurodegenerative diseases associates with early-life cognition, internalizing behavior, or global brain structure.

Original languageEnglish
Article number33
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
StatePublished - 7 Feb 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • cognition
  • frontotemporal dementia
  • internalizing behavior
  • lipid profiles
  • neuroimaging
  • polygenic risk scores


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