Good bone and joint health is essential for the physical tasks of daily living and poorer indicators of physical capability in older adults have been associated with increased mortality rates. Genetic variants of indicators of bone and joint health may be associated with measures of physical capability.
As part of the Healthy Ageing across the Life Course (HALCyon) programme, men and women aged between 52 and 90 + years from six UK cohorts were genotyped for a polymorphism associated with serum calcium (rs1801725, CASR), two polymorphisms associated with bone mineral density (BMD) (rs2941740, ESR1 and rs9594759, RANKL) and one associated with osteoarthritis risk rs3815148 (COG5). Meta-analysis was used to pool within-study effects of the associations between each of the polymorphisms and measures of physical capability: grip strength, timed walk or get up and go, chair rises and standing balance.
Few important associations were observed among the several tests. We found that carriers of the serum calcium-raising allele had poorer grip strength compared with non-carriers (pooled p = 0.05, n = 11,239) after adjusting for age and sex. Inconsistent results were observed for the two variants associated with BMD and we found no evidence for an association between rs3815148 (COG5) and any of the physical capability measures.
Our findings suggest elevated serum calcium levels may lead to lower grip strength, though this requires further replication. Our results do not provide evidence for a substantial influence of these variants in ESR1, RANKL and COG5 on physical capability in older adults.
► We examined associations between bone-related genotypes and physical capability. ► We conducted a meta-analysis on 12,836 middle-age adults. ► We found CASR may be associated with grip strength. ► No substantial support for specific bone mineral density variants and physical capability.
BMD, bone mineral density; OA, osteoarthritis; BMI, body mass index; SNP, single nucleotide polymorphism; CaPS, Caerphilly Prospective Study; ELSA, English Longitudinal Study of Ageing; HAS, Hertfordshire Ageing Study; HCS, Hertfordshire Cohort Study; LBC1921, The Lothian Birth Cohort 1921; NSHD, National Survey of Health and Development; HWE, Hardy–Weinberg equilibrium; WHR, waist–hip ratio; GWAS, genome-wide association studies; Aging; Grip strength; Calcium; Bone mineral density; Osteoarthritis
The ACTN3 R577X (rs1815739) genotype has been associated with athletic status and muscle phenotypes, though not consistently. Our objective was to conduct a meta-analysis of the published literature on athletic status and investigate its associations with physical capability in several new population-based studies. Relevant data were extracted from studies in the literature, comparing genotype frequencies between controls and sprint/power and endurance athletes. For lifecourse physical capability, data were used from two studies of adolescents and seven studies in the Healthy Ageing across the Life Course (HALCyon) collaborative research programme, involving individuals aged between 53 and 90+ years. We found evidence from the published literature to support the hypothesis that in Europeans the RR genotype is more common among sprint/power athletes compared with their controls. There is currently no evidence that the X allele is advantageous to endurance athleticism. We found no association between R577X and grip strength (p-value=0.09, n=7672 in males; p-value=0.90, n=7839 in females), standing balance, timed get up and go or chair rises in our studies of physical capability. The ACTN3 R577X genotype is associated with sprint/power athletic status in Europeans, but does not appear to be associated with objective measures of physical capability in the general population.
ACTN3; Actinin-3; athlete; aging; SNP; grip strength
Physical, emotional, and psychosocial wellbeing are important domains of function. The aims of this study were to explore the existence of separable groups among 70-year olds with scores representing physical function, perceived quality of life, and emotional wellbeing, and to characterise any resulting groups using demographic, personality, cognition, health and lifestyle variables.
We used latent class analysis (LCA) to identify possible groups.
Results suggested there were 5 groups. These included High (n = 515, 47.2% of the sample), Average (n = 417, 38.3%), and Poor Wellbeing (n = 37, 3.4%) groups. The two other groups had contrasting patterns of wellbeing: one group scored relatively well on physical function, but low on emotional wellbeing (Good Fitness/ Low Spirits,n = 60, 5.5%), whereas the other group showed low physical function but relatively well emotional wellbeing (Low Fitness/Good Spirits, n = 62, 5.7%). Salient characteristics that distinguished all the groups included smoking and drinking behaviours, personality, and illness.
Despite there being some evidence of these groups, the results also support a largely one-dimensional construct of wellbeing in old age—for the domains assessed here—though with some evidence that some individuals have uneven profiles.
Physical wellbeing; Psychosocial wellbeing; Profiles; Latent class analysis
Intra-individual variability in reaction time (RT IIV) is considered to be an index of central nervous system functioning. Such variability is elevated in neurodegenerative diseases or following traumatic brain injury. It has also been suggested to increase with age in healthy ageing.
To investigate and quantify age differences in RT IIV in healthy ageing; to examine the effect of different tasks and procedures; to compare raw and mean-adjusted measures of RT IIV.
Four electronic databases: PsycINFO, Medline, Web of Science and EMBASE, and hand searching of reference lists of relevant studies.
English language journal articles, books or book chapters, containing quantitative empirical data on simple and/or choice RT IIV. Samples had to include younger (under 60 years) and older (60 years and above) human adults.
Study Appraisal and Synthesis
Studies were evaluated in terms of sample representativeness and data treatment. Relevant data were extracted, using a specially-designed form, from the published report or obtained directly from the study authors. Age-group differences in raw and RT-mean-adjusted measures of simple and choice RT IIV were quantified using random effects meta-analyses.
Older adults (60+ years) had greater RT IIV than younger (20–39) and middle-aged (40–59) adults. Age effects were larger in choice RT tasks than in simple RT tasks. For all measures of RT IIV, effect sizes were larger for the comparisons between older and younger adults than between older and middle-aged adults, indicating that the age-related increases in RT IIV are not limited to old age. Effect sizes were also larger for raw than for RT-mean-adjusted RT IIV measures.
RT IIV is greater among older adults. Some (but not all) of the age-related increases in RT IIV are accounted for by the increased RT means.
Poorer cognitive ability in youth is a risk factor for later mental health problems but it is largely unknown whether cognitive ability, in youth or in later life, is predictive of mental wellbeing. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether cognitive ability at age 11 years, cognitive ability in later life, or lifetime cognitive change are associated with mental wellbeing in older people.
We used data on 8191 men and women aged 50 to 87 years from four cohorts in the HALCyon collaborative research programme into healthy ageing: the Aberdeen Birth Cohort 1936, the Lothian Birth Cohort 1921, the National Child Development Survey, and the MRC National Survey for Health and Development. We used linear regression to examine associations between cognitive ability at age 11, cognitive ability in later life, and lifetime change in cognitive ability and mean score on the Warwick Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale and meta-analysis to obtain an overall estimate of the effect of each.
People whose cognitive ability at age 11 was a standard deviation above the mean scored 0.53 points higher on the mental wellbeing scale (95% confidence interval 0.36, 0.71). The equivalent value for cognitive ability in later life was 0.89 points (0.72, 1.07). A standard deviation improvement in cognitive ability in later life relative to childhood ability was associated with 0.66 points (0.39, 0.93) advantage in wellbeing score. These effect sizes equate to around 0.1 of a standard deviation in mental wellbeing score. Adjustment for potential confounding and mediating variables, primarily the personality trait neuroticism, substantially attenuated these associations.
Associations between cognitive ability in childhood or lifetime cognitive change and mental wellbeing in older people are slight and may be confounded by personality trait differences.
Objective To quantify the link between lower, subclinically symptomatic, levels of psychological distress and cause-specific mortality in a large scale, population based study.
Design Individual participant meta-analysis of 10 large prospective cohort studies from the Health Survey for England. Baseline psychological distress measured by the 12 item General Health Questionnaire score, and mortality from death certification.
Participants 68 222 people from general population samples of adults aged 35 years and over, free of cardiovascular disease and cancer, and living in private households in England at study baseline.
Main outcome measures Death from all causes (n=8365), cardiovascular disease including cerebrovascular disease (n=3382), all cancers (n=2552), and deaths from external causes (n=386). Mean follow-up was 8.2 years (standard deviation 3.5).
Results We found a dose-response association between psychological distress across the full range of severity and an increased risk of mortality (age and sex adjusted hazard ratio for General Health Questionnaire scores of 1-3 v score 0: 1.20, 95% confidence interval 1.13 to 1.27; scores 4-6: 1.43, 1.31 to 1.56; and scores 7-12: 1.94, 1.66 to 2.26; P<0.001 for trend). This association remained after adjustment for somatic comorbidity plus behavioural and socioeconomic factors. A similar association was found for cardiovascular disease deaths and deaths from external causes. Cancer death was only associated with psychological distress at higher levels.
Conclusions Psychological distress is associated with increased risk of mortality from several major causes in a dose-response pattern. Risk of mortality was raised even at lower levels of distress.
Several age-related traits are associated with shorter telomeres, the structures that cap the end of linear chromosomes. A common polymorphism near the telomere maintenance gene TERT has been associated with several cancers, but relationships with other ageing traits such as physical capability have not been reported.
As part of the Healthy Ageing across the Life Course (HALCyon) collaborative research programme, men and women aged between 44 and 90 years from 9 UK cohorts were genotyped for the single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs401681. We then investigated relationships between the SNP and 30 age-related phenotypes, including cognitive and physical capability, blood lipid levels and lung function, pooling within-study genotypic effects in meta-analyses.
No significant associations were found between the SNP and any of the cognitive performance tests (e.g. pooled beta per T allele for word recall z-score=0.02, 95% CI: -0.01- 0.04, p-value=0.12, n=18,737), physical performance tests (e.g. pooled beta for grip strength=-0.02, 95% CI:-0.045- 0.006, p-value=0.14, n=11,711), blood pressure, lung function or blood test measures. Similarly, no differences in observations were found when considering follow-up measures of cognitive or physical performance after adjusting for its measure at an earlier assessment.
The lack of associations between SNP rs401681 and a wide range of age-related phenotypes investigated in this large multi-cohort study suggests that whilst this SNP may be associated with cancer, it is not an important contributor to other markers of ageing.
Aging; ageing; middle-aged; telomere; cognition; physical
Processing speed is an important cognitive function that is compromised in psychiatric illness (e.g., schizophrenia, depression) and old age; it shares genetic background with complex cognition (e.g., working memory, reasoning). To find genes influencing speed we performed a genome-wide association scan in up to three cohorts: Brisbane (mean age 16 years; N = 1659); LBC1936 (mean age 70 years, N = 992); LBC1921 (mean age 82 years, N = 307), and; HBCS (mean age 64 years, N = 1080). Meta-analysis of the common measures highlighted various suggestively significant (p < 1.21 × 10−5) SNPs and plausible candidate genes (e.g., TRIB3). A biological pathways analysis of the speed factor identified two common pathways from the KEGG database (cell junction, focal adhesion) in two cohorts, while a pathway analysis linked to the GO database revealed common pathways across pairs of speed measures (e.g., receptor binding, cellular metabolic process). These highlighted genes and pathways will be able to inform future research, including results for psychiatric disease.
Information processing speed; Cognitive ability; Genes; Biological pathways
Genetic influences have an important role in the ageing process. The genetic factors that influence success in bodily ageing may also contribute to the successful ageing of cognitive abilities. A comparative genomics approach found longevity genes conserved between yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae and nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. We hypothesised that these longevity genes influence variance in cognitive ability and age-related cognitive decline in humans. Here, we investigated six of these genes that have human orthologs and show expression in the brain. We tested AFG3L2 (MIM: 604581, AFG3 ATPase family gene 3-like 2 (yeast)), FRAP1 (MIM: 601231, a FK506 binding protein 12-rapamycin associated protein), MAT1A, MAT2A (MIM: 610550 and 601468, methionine adenosyltransferases I alpha and II alpha, respectively), SYNJ1 and SYNJ2 (MIM: 604297 and 609410, synaptojanin-1 and synaptojanin-2, respectively) in approximately 1000 healthy older Scots: the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936 (LBC1936). They were tested on general cognitive ability at age 11 years. At a mean age of 70 years, they re-sat the same general cognitive ability test and underwent an additional battery of diverse cognitive tests. In all, 70 tag and functional SNPs in the six longevity genes were genotyped and tested for association with cognition and cognitive ageing in LBC1936. Suggestive associations were detected between SNPs in SYNJ2, MAT1A, AFG3L2 and SYNJ1 and a general memory factor and general cognitive ability at age 11 and 70 years. Replication studies for cognitive ability associations were performed in 2506 samples from the Cognitive Ageing Genetics in England and Scotland consortium. A meta-analysis replicated the SYNJ2 association with cognitive abilities (lowest P=0.00077). SYNJ2 is a novel gene in which variation is potentially associated with cognitive abilities.
cognition; cognitive ageing; longevity genes; gene association; SYNJ2
Two important consequences of the normal ageing process are sarcopenia (the age-related loss of muscle mass and function) and age-related cognitive decline. Existing data support positive relationships between muscle function, cognition and brain structure. However, studies investigating these relationships at older ages are lacking and rarely include a measure of muscle size. Here we test whether neck muscle size is positively associated with cognition and brain structure in older men.
We studied 51 healthy older men with mean age 73.8 (sd 1.5) years. Neck muscle cross-sectional area (CSA) was measured from T1-weighted MR-brain scans using a validated technique. We measured multiple cognitive domains including verbal and visuospatial memory, executive functioning and estimated prior cognitive ability. Whole brain, ventricular, hippocampal and cerebellar volumes were measured with MRI. General linear models (ANCOVA) were performed.
Larger neck muscle CSA was associated with less whole brain atrophy (t = 2.86, p = 0.01, partial eta squared 17%). Neck muscle CSA was not associated with other neuroimaging variables or current cognitive ability. Smaller neck muscle CSA was unexpectedly associated with higher prior cognition (t = −2.12, p < 0.05, partial eta squared 10%).
In healthy older men, preservation of whole brain volume (i.e. less atrophy) is associated with larger muscle size. Longitudinal ageing studies are now required to investigate these relationships further.
Sarcopenia; Cognition; Aging; Muscle cross-sectional area; Brain volume
Human longevity and personality traits are both heritable and are consistently linked at the phenotypic level. We test the hypothesis that candidate genes influencing longevity in lower organisms are associated with variance in the five major dimensions of human personality (measured by the NEO-FFI and IPIP inventories) plus related mood states of anxiety and depression. Seventy single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in six brain expressed, longevity candidate genes (AFG3L2, FRAP1, MAT1A, MAT2A, SYNJ1 and SYNJ2) were typed in over one thousand 70-year old participants from the Lothian Birth Cohort of 1936 (LBC1936). No SNPs were associated with the personality and psychological distress traits at a Bonferroni corrected level of significance (p < 0.0002), but there was an over-representation of nominally significant (p < 0.05) SNPs in the synaptojanin-2 (SYNJ2) gene associated with agreeableness and symptoms of depression. Eight SNPs which showed nominally significant association across personality measurement instruments were tested in an extremely large replication sample of 17 106 participants. SNP rs350292, in SYNJ2, was significant: the minor allele was associated with an average decrease in NEO agreeableness scale scores of 0.25 points, and 0.67 points in the restricted analysis of elderly cohorts (most aged > 60 years). Because we selected a specific set of longevity genes based on functional genomics findings, further research on other longevity gene candidates is warranted to discover whether they are relevant candidates for personality and psychological distress traits.
NEO personality; IPIP personality; anxiety; depressive symptoms; ageing; genetics
To investigate the associations of body mass index (BMI) and grip strength with objective measures of physical performance (chair rise time, walking speed and balance) including an assessment of sex differences and non-linearity.
Cross-sectional data from eight UK cohort studies (total N = 16 444) participating in the Healthy Ageing across the Life Course (HALCyon) research programme, ranging in age from 50 to 90+ years at the time of physical capability assessment, were used. Regression models were fitted within each study and meta-analysis methods used to pool regression coefficients across studies and to assess the extent of heterogeneity between studies.
Higher BMI was associated with poorer performance on chair rise (N = 10 773), walking speed (N = 9 761) and standing balance (N = 13 921) tests. Higher BMI was associated with stronger grip strength in men only. Stronger grip strength was associated with better performance on all tests with a tendency for the associations to be stronger in women than men; for example, walking speed was higher by 0.43 cm/s (0.14, 0.71) more per kg in women than men. Both BMI and grip strength remained independently related with performance after mutual adjustment, but there was no evidence of effect modification. Both BMI and grip strength exhibited non-linear relations with performance; those in the lowest fifth of grip strength and highest fifth of BMI having particularly poor performance. Findings were similar when waist circumference was examined in place of BMI.
Older men and women with weak muscle strength and high BMI have considerably poorer performance than others and associations were observed even in the youngest cohort (age 53). Although causality cannot be inferred from observational cross-sectional studies, our findings suggest the likely benefit of early assessment and interventions to reduce fat mass and improve muscle strength in the prevention of future functional limitations.
Interest in measuring functional status among nondisabled older adults has increased in recent years. This is, in part, due to the notion that adults identified as 'high risk' for functional decline portray a state that is potentially easier to reverse than overt disability. Assessing relatively healthy older adults with traditional self-report measures (activities of daily living) has proven difficult because these instruments were initially developed for institutionalised older adults. Perhaps less evident, are problems associated with change scores and the potential for 'construct under-representation', which reflects the exclusion of important features of the construct (e.g., disability). Furthermore, establishing a formal hierarchy of functional status tells more than the typical simple summation of functional loss, and may have predictive value to the clinician monitoring older adults: if the sequence task difficulty is accelerated or out of order it may indicate the need for interventions.
This review identified studies that employed item response theory (IRT) to examine or revise functional status scales. IRT can be used to transform the ordinal nature of functional status scales to interval level data, which serves to increase diagnostic precision and sensitivity to clinical change. Furthermore, IRT can be used to rank items unequivocally along a hierarchy based on difficulty. It should be noted that this review is not concerned with contrasting IRT with more traditional classical test theory methodology.
A systematic search of four databases (PubMed, Embase, CINAHL, and PsychInfo) resulted in the review of 2,192 manuscripts. Of these manuscripts, twelve met our inclusion/exclusion requirements and thus were targeted for further inspection.
Manuscripts presented in this review appear to summarise gerontology's best efforts to improve construct validity and content validity (i.e., ceiling effects) for scales measuring the early stages of activity restriction in community-dwelling older adults. Several scales in this review were exceptional at reducing ceiling effects, reducing gaps in coverage along the construct, as well as establishing a formal hierarchy of functional decline. These instrument modifications make it plausible to detect minor changes in difficulty for IADL items positioned at the edge of the disability continuum, which can be used to signal the onset of progressive type disability in older adults.
Differences in genomic structure between individuals are ubiquitous features of human genetic variation. Specific copy number variants (CNVs) have been associated with susceptibility to numerous complex psychiatric disorders, including attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder, autism-spectrum disorders and schizophrenia. These disorders often display co-morbidity with low intelligence. Rare chromosomal deletions and duplications are associated with these disorders, so it has been suggested that these deletions or duplications may be associated with differences in intelligence. Here we investigate associations between large (≥500kb), rare (<1% population frequency) CNVs and both fluid and crystallized intelligence in community-dwelling older people. We observe no significant associations between intelligence and total CNV load. Examining individual CNV regions previously implicated in neuropsychological disorders, we find suggestive evidence that CNV regions around SHANK3 are associated with fluid intelligence as derived from a battery of cognitive tests. This is the first study to examine the effects of rare CNVs as called by multiple algorithms on cognition in a large non-clinical sample, and finds no effects of such variants on general cognitive ability.
Alzheimer's disease patients have deficits in specific cognitive domains, and susceptibility genes for this disease may influence human cognition in nondemented individuals. To evaluate the role of Alzheimer's disease-linked genetic variation on cognition and normal cognitive ageing, we investigated two Scottish cohorts for which assessments in major cognitive domains are available: the Lothian Birth Cohort of 1921 and the Lothian Birth Cohort of 1936, consisting of 505 and 998 individuals, respectively. 158 SNPs from eleven genes were evaluated. Single SNP analyses did not reveal any statistical association after correction for multiple testing. One haplotype from TRAPPC6A was associated with nonverbal reasoning in both cohorts and combined data sets. This haplotype explains a small proportion of the phenotypic variability (1.8%). These findings warrant further investigation as biological modifiers of cognitive ageing.
Epigenetic mechanisms have been implicated in syndromes associated with mental impairment but little is known about the role of epigenetics in determining the normal variation in human intelligence. We measured polymorphisms in four DNA methyltransferases (DNMT1, DNMT3A, DNMT3B and DNMT3L) involved in epigenetic marking and related these to childhood and adult general intelligence in a population (n = 1542) consisting of two Scottish cohorts born in 1936 and residing in Lothian (n = 1075) or Aberdeen (n = 467). All subjects had taken the same test of intelligence at age 11yrs. The Lothian cohort took the test again at age 70yrs. The minor T allele of DNMT3L SNP 11330C>T (rs7354779) allele was associated with a higher standardised childhood intelligence score; greatest effect in the dominant analysis but also significant in the additive model (coefficient = 1.40additive; 95%CI 0.22,2.59; p = 0.020 and 1.99dominant; 95%CI 0.55,3.43; p = 0.007). The DNMT3L C allele was associated with an increased risk of being below average intelligence (OR 1.25additive; 95%CI 1.05,1.51; p = 0.011 and OR 1.37dominant; 95%CI 1.11,1.68; p = 0.003), and being in the lowest 40th (padditive = 0.009; pdominant = 0.002) and lowest 30th (padditive = 0.004; pdominant = 0.002) centiles for intelligence. After Bonferroni correction for the number variants tested the link between DNMT3L 11330C>T and childhood intelligence remained significant by linear regression and centile analysis; only the additive regression model was borderline significant. Adult intelligence was similarly linked to the DNMT3L variant but this analysis was limited by the numbers studied and nature of the test and the association was not significant after Bonferroni correction. We believe that the role of epigenetics in the normal variation in human intelligence merits further study and that this novel finding should be tested in other cohorts.
The ACTN3 R577X (rs1815739) genotype has been associated with
athletic status and muscle phenotypes, although not consistently. Our objective
was to conduct a meta-analysis of the published literature on athletic status
and investigate its associations with physical capability in several new
population-based studies. Relevant data were extracted from studies in the
literature, comparing genotype frequencies between controls and sprint/power and
endurance athletes. For life course physical capability, data were used from two
studies of adolescents and seven studies in the Healthy Ageing across the Life
Course (HALCyon) collaborative research program, involving individuals aged
between 53 and 90+ years. We found evidence from the published literature
to support the hypothesis that in Europeans the RR genotype is more common among
sprint/power athletes compared with their controls. There is currently no
evidence that the X allele is advantageous to endurance athleticism. We found no
association between R577X and grip strength (P = 0.09,
n = 7,672 in males; P =
0.90, n = 7,839 in females), standing balance, timed get
up and go, or chair rises in our studies of physical capability. The
ACTN3 R577X genotype is associated with sprint/power
athletic status in Europeans, but does not appear to be associated with
objective measures of physical capability in the general population. Hum Mutat
32:1–11, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
ACTN3; Actinin-3; athlete; aging; SNP; grip strength
The genetic basis of variation in human cognitive abilities is poorly understood. RIMS1 encodes a synapse active‐zone protein with important roles in the maintenance of normal synaptic function: mice lacking this protein have greatly reduced learning ability and memory function.
An established paradigm examining the structural and functional effects of mutations in genes expressed in the eye and the brain was used to study a kindred with an inherited retinal dystrophy due to RIMS1 mutation.
Materials and methods
Neuropsychological tests and high‐resolution MRI brain scanning were undertaken in the kindred. In a population cohort, neuropsychological scores were associated with common variation in RIMS1. Additionally, RIMS1 was sequenced in top‐scoring individuals. Evolution of RIMS1 was assessed, and its expression in developing human brain was studied.
Affected individuals showed significantly enhanced cognitive abilities across a range of domains. Analysis suggests that factors other than RIMS1 mutation were unlikely to explain enhanced cognition. No association with common variation and verbal IQ was found in the population cohort, and no other mutations in RIMS1 were detected in the highest scoring individuals from this cohort. RIMS1 protein is expressed in developing human brain, but RIMS1 does not seem to have been subjected to accelerated evolution in man.
A possible role for RIMS1 in the enhancement of cognitive function at least in this kindred is suggested. Although further work is clearly required to explore these findings before a role for RIMS1 in human cognition can be formally accepted, the findings suggest that genetic mutation may enhance human cognition in some cases.
Brain size is associated with cognitive ability in adulthood (correlation ~ .3), but few studies have investigated the relationship in normal ageing, particularly beyond age 75 years. With age both brain size and fluid-type intelligence decline, and regional atrophy is often suggested as causing decline in specific cognitive abilities. However, an association between brain size and intelligence may be due to the persistence of this relationship from earlier life.
We recruited 107 community-dwelling volunteers (29% male) aged 75–81 years for cognitive testing and neuroimaging. We used principal components analysis to derived a 'general cognitive factor' (g) from tests of fluid-type ability. Using semi-automated analysis, we measured whole brain volume, intracranial area (ICA) (an estimate of maximal brain volume), and volume of frontal and temporal lobes, amygdalo-hippocampal complex, and ventricles. Brain atrophy was estimated by correcting WBV for ICA.
Whole brain volume (WBV) correlated with general cognitive ability (g) (r = .21, P < .05). Statistically significant associations between brain areas and specific cognitive abilities became non-significant when corrected for maximal brain volume (estimated using ICA), i.e. there were no statistically significant associations between atrophy and cognitive ability. The association between WBV and g was largely attenuated (from .21 to .03: i.e. attenuating the variance by 98%) by correcting for ICA. ICA accounted for 6.2% of the variance in g in old age, whereas atrophy accounted for < 1%.
The association between brain regions and specific cognitive abilities in community dwelling people of older age is due to the life-long association between whole brain size and general cognitive ability, rather than atrophy of specific regions. Researchers and clinicians should therefore be cautious of interpreting global or regional brain atrophy on neuroimaging as contributing to cognitive status in older age without taking into account prior mental ability and brain size.
Childhood intelligence predicts mortality throughout most of the life span. However, it is unknown whether its effect persists into advanced old age.
The Aberdeen Birth Cohort born in 1921 (n = 354) and that had an IQ test as part of the national Scottish Mental Survey of 1932 were seen in 1997 at age 76 years when childhood and adult socio-environmental, medical and cognitive data were collected. Participants were followed until May 2007 and vital status determined from the General Register for Scotland records. Univariate associations between baseline variables and mortality were determined and multivariable survival analysis performed with Cox's proportional hazards modelling.
One hundred and fifty-eight (44.6%) of the 354 cohort members had died by the census date. Significantly more men (n = 102) died during follow-up than women (n = 56, χ2 = 5.27, p = .022). Lower scores on four of the six cognitive tests at age 76 years were associated with increased mortality, but not IQ age 11. Survival was associated with gender (H.R. 0.32, 95% C.I. 0.11–0.89 for women versus men), peak expiratory flow rate (H.R. 0.997, 95% C.I. 0.992–1.001 per l/min) and the Uses of Common Objects test (H.R. 0.91, 95% C.I. 0.82–1.01)
Both physical and psychological variables independently predicted survival in old age: respiratory function and executive function in particular. Male gender conferred increased risk of mortality and this was not explained by the broad range of socio-environmental, mental ability and health status variables examined in the study.
Cognitive reserve is thought to influence the degree of neuropathology needed for diagnosis of Alzheimer disease (AD). Cognitive reserve can be operationally defined as the hypothesized capacity of the mature adult brain to sustain the effects of disease or injury without manifesting clinical symptoms of AD, but sufficient to cause clinical dementia in an individual possessing less cognitive reserve. Its effect on the subsequent course of AD is less clear. Pre-morbid IQ is a useful measure of cognitive reserve.
We studied 659 consecutive patients with AD at a tertiary referral memory clinic. Patients were assessed on six cognitive tests at baseline. Activities of Daily Living (ADL) were measured on the Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL) scale and Physical Self-Maintenance Scale (PSMS). The National Adult Reading Test (NART) was used to estimate pre-morbid IQ. Patients were followed up after starting a cholinesterase inhibitor over 78 weeks. Mixed general linear models estimated the effects of NART on cognition and ADL.
Three hundred and fifty-five patients had NART scored with a mean estimated pre-morbid IQ of 104.7 (standard deviation 18.5). NART increased overall cognitive ability by 2.7% for every 10 IQ points (p < .001). There was a trend for an effect on the change in cognition over time (p = .065) with higher NART associated with improvement of cognitive ability over time. After adjusting for age and sex, a 10 point increase in NART was associated with an improvement of 2% in ADL scores, but this effect was explained by NART's influence on contemporaneous cognitive ability.
Our data support the hypothesis that cognitive reserve continues to have a limited influence on cognition after AD has been diagnosed and thus, indirectly, has an impact on ADL.
Non-pathological cognitive ageing is a distressing condition affecting an increasing number of people in our 'ageing society'. Oxidative stress is hypothesised to have a major role in cellular ageing, including brain ageing.
Associations between cognitive ageing and 325 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), located in 109 genes implicated in oxidative stress and/or cognition, were examined in a unique cohort of relatively healthy older people, on whom we have cognitive ability scores at ages 11 and 79 years (LBC1921). SNPs showing a significant positive association were then genotyped in a second cohort for whom we have cognitive ability scores at the ages of 11 and 64 years (ABC1936). An intronic SNP in the APP gene (rs2830102) was significantly associated with cognitive ageing in both LBC1921 and a combined LBC1921/ABC1936 analysis (p < 0.01), but not in ABC1936 alone.
This study suggests a possible role for APP in normal cognitive ageing, in addition to its role in Alzheimer's disease.
Low muscle mass secondary to disease and ageing is an important cause of excess mortality and morbidity. Many studies include a MR brain scan but no peripheral measure of muscle mass. We developed a technique to measure posterior neck muscle cross-sectional area (CSA) on volumetric MR brain scans enabling brain and muscle size to be measured simultaneously.
We performed four studies to develop and test: feasibility, inter-rater reliability, repeatability and external validity. We used T1-weighted MR brain imaging from young and older subjects, obtained on different scanners, and collected mid-thigh MR data.
After developing the technique and demonstrating feasibility, we tested it for inter-rater reliability in 40 subjects. Intraclass correlation coefficients (ICC) between raters were 0.99 (95% confidence intervals (CI) 0.98–1.00) for the combined group (trapezius, splenius and semispinalis), 0.92 (CI 0.85–0.96) for obliquus and 0.92 (CI 0.85–0.96) for sternocleidomastoid. The first unrotated principal component explained 72.2% of total neck muscle CSA variance and correlated positively with both right (r = 0.52, p = .001) and left (r = 0.50, p = .002) grip strength. The 14 subjects in the repeatability study had had two MR brain scans on three different scanners. The ICC for between scanner variation for total neck muscle CSA was high at 0.94 (CI 0.86–0.98). The ICCs for within scanner variations were also high, with values of 0.95 (CI 0.86–0.98), 0.97 (CI 0.92–0.99) and 0.96 (CI 0.86–0.99) for the three scanners. The external validity study found a correlation coefficient for total thigh CSA and total neck CSA of 0.88.
We present a feasible, valid and reliable method for measuring neck muscle CSA on T1-weighted MR brain scans. Larger studies are needed to validate and apply our technique with subjects differing in age, ethnicity and geographical location.
General intelligence is an important human quantitative trait that accounts for much of the variation in diverse cognitive abilities. Individual differences in intelligence are strongly associated with many important life outcomes, including educational and occupational attainments, income, health and lifespan1,2. Data from twin and family studies are consistent with a high heritability of intelligence3, but this inference has been controversial. We conducted a genome-wide analysis of 3511 unrelated adults with data on 549 692 SNPs and detailed phenotypes on cognitive traits. We estimate that 40% of the variation in crystallized-type intelligence and 51% of the variation in fluid-type intelligence between individuals is accounted for by linkage disequilibrium between genotyped common SNP markers and unknown causal variants. These estimates provide lower bounds for the narrow-sense heritability of the traits. We partitioned genetic variation on individual chromosomes and found that, on average, longer chromosomes explain more variation. Finally, using just SNP data we predicted approximately 1% of the variance of crystallized and fluid cognitive phenotypes in an independent sample (P = 0.009 and 0.028, respectively). Our results unequivocally confirm that a substantial proportion of individual differences in human intelligence is due to genetic variation, and are consistent with many genes of small effects underlying the additive genetic influences on intelligence.
Intelligence; genetics; GWAS; quantitative trait