Link Found Between Cognitive Function, Neighborhood

Psychosocially hazardous area may negatively affect functioning in those with genetic variant

TUESDAY, March 8 (HealthDay News) -- Growing old in a psychosocially hazardous neighborhood may have a diminishing effect on cognitive functioning in people with the ε4 variant of the apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene, according to research published in the March issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

To study whether the APOE ε4 allele modifies the influence of neighborhood characteristics on cognitive function, Brian K. Lee, Ph.D., of the Drexel University School of Public Health in Philadelphia, and colleagues measured cognitive performance in 1,140 urban residents 50 to 70 years old in 65 Baltimore neighborhoods that had been characterized by psychosocial environment.

After fully adjusting for individual covariates, the researchers found no consistent association between high neighborhood psychosocial hazards and worse cognitive performance in general, but there was an association between the two in people with the APOE ε4 genotype. Specifically, they found evidence of associations in processing speed and executive functioning. They found suggestive evidence for eye-hand coordination (P = .05).

"Living in a psychosocially hazardous neighborhood was associated with worse cognitive function in persons with the APOE ε4 allele, evidence of a novel gene X environment interaction," the authors write.

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