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Approved research

A genetic study of human cognitive function and age-related cognitive decline

Principal Investigator: Dr Albert Tenesa
Approved Research ID: 7908
Approval date: December 1st 2014

Lay summary

The aim of the current study is to gain further understanding of the genetic factors that underlie human cognition and cognitive decline by identifying the genes that contribute to variation in cognitive function in the UK Biobank. The project will correlate genetic and phenotypic variation to identify genes that contribute to memory and processing speed (pairs matching, prospective, numeric, light pattern memory, reaction time and fluid intelligence), and develop predictors of cognitive impairment based on genetic markers. Cognitive impairment is a major health and social issue in ageing populations. Age-related cognitive decline is costly to the individual, his relatives and society in general. It represents a major financial burden to the health services and often precedes dementia, illness or death. Individual variation in cognitive ageing is partly genetic and partly environmental. About 50% of the cognitive variation is genetic. Identifying the genes that contribute to cognitive ageing would allow developing better prediction models of cognitive impairment, thereby facilitating early intervention; and better understanding of the molecular basis of disease that could eventually provide better or new treatments. Cognitive measurements and their change will be compared to the genetic variations measured from blood DNA. We expect that variation in DNA within, or nearby, genes relevant to cognitive function will correlate with differences in cognitive function among individuals. We will use statistical methods to test if any of the hundreds of thousands of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), a type of genetic variation, measured in the UK Biobank is associated with changes in cognition. Subset of the cohort with cognitive measurements that had cognitive measurements at recruitment.