Efforts to understand how the aging process affects the brain and cognition have expanded beyond simply comparing younger and older adults. “Everybody ages differently. By looking at genetic variations and individual differences in markers of vascular health, we begin to understand that preventable factors may affect our chances for successful aging,” said Wayne State University psychology doctoral student Andrew Bender, lead author of a study supported by the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health and now in press in the journal Neuropsychologia. The study focuses on carriers of the e4 variant of the apolipoprotein (APOE) gene, present in roughly 25 percent of the population. Compared to those who possess other forms of the APOE gene, carriers of the e4 allele are at significantly greater risk for Alzheimer’s, dementia and cardiovascular disease. The research project, led by Naftali Raz, professor of psychology and director of the Lifespan Cognitive Neuroscience Research Program at WSU’s Institute of Gerontology, tested different cognitive abilities known for their sensitivity to aging and the effects of the APOE e4 variant.