A large international epidemiological study of data from 30,000 people may have identified underlying genetic variants linked to individual differences in the ability to process information. Genetic differences might explain why some people are quicker thinkers in middle age and later life, and may (in future) help shed light on the neurodegenerative processes behind mental decline.
Subjects, aged 45 years and older, without dementia, took cognitive tests to determine how quickly they processed information. People with slower processing speed were found to have variants near the cell adhesion molecule two (CADM2) gene. The CADM2 gene is thought to be involved in communication / information processing between brain cells. This gene’s influence was most pronounced in the areas of the brain involved in thinking speed. The same gene has been linked (elsewhere) to autism and personality traits.
Two other genetic variants, associated with memory performance and general cognitive functioning, were discovered in older adults (based on the same group of participants) recently.
Gene study may explain why some remain quick thinkers. London: BBC Health News, April 16th 2015.
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Ibrahim-Verbaas, CA. Bressler, J. [and] Debette, S. [et al] (2015). GWAS for executive function and processing speed suggests involvement of the CADM2 gene. Molecular Psychiatry. April 14th 2015. [Epub ahead of print]. (Click here to view the PubMed abstract).