Genes & Cognitive Ability
Genes code for particular functions and traits (like eye and skin colour), and they exist in more than one form, which explains why we have different eye colours. These many forms of a gene are the result of genetic variation—this is what makes all of us unique, with differentiating characteristics. Scientists have, for long now, attempted to understand genetic variation across our many traits, and a recent study, conducted by investigators from The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, looks into how genes associated with cognitive ability differ from each other.
Healing for Alzheimer’s Patients?
Led by researcher Todd Lencz, the team identified new genetic variations for human cognition. In their analysis, they also found a genetic overlap with longevity, a discovery that is hoped to be hopeful for the development of targeted treatment for disorders pertaining to cognition and memory.
“For the first time, we were able to use genetic information to point us towards specific drugs that might aid in cognitive disorders of the brain, including Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder,” comments Lencz.
Cognition & Longevity
For the analysis, Lencz and his team put under the microscope the genomes of over 100,000 people whose brain function had been measured through neuropsychological tests. This information was, then, compared with the genomes of 300,000 people who were measured for the highest level of education attained, serving as a benchmark for cognitive ability. That was how the scientists stumbled upon the genetic overlap: the findings indicate a link between a genetic predisposition for higher cognitive ability, and longer lifespan, that is people whose genes inclined them towards greater brain skills would live longer.
More research is required to determine how our genes affect our cognitive ability.
“The field of genomics is growing by leaps and bounds,” says Dr. Lencz. “Because the number of genes we can discover is a direct function of the sample size available, further research with additional samples is likely to provide even more insight into how our genes play a role in cognitive ability.”
Cognition and Disease
Another finding shows a genetic overlap between cognitive ability and risk for autoimmune disease.