Self-reference and emotional memory effects in older adults at increased genetic risk of Alzheimer’s disease

Matthew D. Grilli, Cindy B. Woolverton, Meli’sa Crawford, Elizabeth L. Glisky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The present study investigated whether cognitively healthy older adults who are carriers of the ε4 allele of apolipoprotein E, the most prevalent genetic risk factor for late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, benefit from self-referential processing and emotional processing to the same degree as noncarriers of this gene. Participants encoded emotional and nonemotional narratives using a baseline-orienting task, semantic elaboration, or imagination-based self-referential processing and then completed a recognition memory test. Both groups of older adults showed enhanced recognition memory for narrative information following self-referential processing relative to semantic elaboration, and the magnitude of this memory effect was not affected by ε4 status. However, older adult ε4 carriers did not show an emotional enhancement effect, whereas older adult ε4 noncarriers did. These results indicate that whereas the self-reference effect is not attenuated in cognitively healthy older adults ε4 carriers, deficits in emotional memory may be an early cognitive marker of abnormal decline.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)186-199
Number of pages14
JournalAging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 4 2018


  • APOE
  • Self-referential
  • aging
  • emotion
  • episodic memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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