The study led by Lisa Mosconi, Ph.D., research assistant professor of psychiatry at the Center for Brain Health at NYU Langone Medical Center, supports an earlier research of 49 people.
In that study, they found reductions in glucose brain metabolism among individuals with a maternal history of the disease, but not among those with a paternal history or with neither parent affected.
"Our new study shows that subjects with a mother with Alzheimer's show similarities with Alzheimer's patients. They have metabolic reductions in the brain regions that are typically affected by AD, which worsen over time," said Mosconi.
Using PET scans and a technique that labels glucose with a chemical tracer (FDG-PET) over a two-year period, the researchers studied glucose metabolism in the brain of 66 cognitively normal individuals, from 50 to 82 years old.
Twenty subjects were found to have mothers with the disease, and nine had fathers with Alzheimer's. The rest had no family history of the disease.
Individuals with a maternal history of the disease had progressive metabolic reductions in glucose usage, and at a much faster rate, in areas of the brain affected by Alzheimer's disease than subjects with a paternal history or no parent with the disease.
Mosconi, however, said that it's not known why people with a maternal history would be at greater risk. Rare genetic mutations are responsible for the early-onset form of familial Alzheimer's, but people with a family history of late-onset disease (after age 55) don't carry any known genes.
The study was presented at the Alzheimer's Association 2008 International Alzheimer's Disease Conference held in Chicago.