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Evidence against altered excitatory/inhibitory balance in the posteromedial cortex of young adult APOE E4 carriers: a resting state 1H-MRS study

Costigan, Alison G. ORCID:, Umla-Runge, Katja ORCID:, Evans, C. John ORCID:, Raybould, Rachel, Graham, Kim S. ORCID: and Lawrence, Andrew D. ORCID: 2021. Evidence against altered excitatory/inhibitory balance in the posteromedial cortex of young adult APOE E4 carriers: a resting state 1H-MRS study. Neuroimage: Reports 1 (4) , 100059. 10.1016/j.ynirp.2021.100059

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A strategy to gain insight into early changes that may predispose people to Alzheimer's disease (AD) is to study the brains of younger cognitively healthy people that are at increased genetic risk of AD. The Apolipoprotein (APOE) E4 allele is the strongest genetic risk factor for AD, and several neuroimaging studies comparing APOE E4 carriers with non-carriers at age ∼20–30 years have detected hyperactivity (or reduced deactivation) in posteromedial cortex (PMC), a key hub of the default network (DN), which has a high susceptibility to early amyloid deposition in AD. Transgenic mouse models suggest such early network activity alterations may result from altered excitatory/inhibitory (E/I) balance, but this is yet to be examined in humans. Here we test the hypothesis that PMC fMRI hyperactivity could be underpinned by altered levels of excitatory (glutamate) and/or inhibitory (GABA) neurotransmitters in this brain region. Forty-seven participants (20 APOE E4 carriers and 27 non-carriers) aged 18–25 years underwent resting-state proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS), a non-invasive neuroimaging technique to measure glutamate and GABA in vivo. Metabolites were measured in a PMC voxel of interest and in a comparison voxel in the occipital cortex (OCC). There was no difference in either glutamate or GABA between the E4 carriers and non-carriers in either MRS voxel, or in the ratio of glutamate to GABA, a measure of E/I balance. Default Bayesian t-tests revealed evidence in support of this null finding. Our findings suggest that PMC hyperactivity in APOE E4 carriers is unlikely to be associated with, or possibly may precede, alterations in local resting-state PMC neurotransmitters, thus informing our understanding of the spatio-temporal sequence of early network alterations underlying APOE E4 related AD risk.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre (CUBRIC)
Additional Information: This is an open access article under the CC BY license (
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 2666-9560
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 5 October 2021
Date of Acceptance: 4 October 2021
Last Modified: 10 May 2023 00:41

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