Gene study explains why some people stay sharp as they age


Scientists have discovered a link between genes and quick thinking skills in middle and later life.

Researchers identified common genetic variants – changes in a person’s genetic code – that are related to how quickly a person is able to process new information.

It is the first time that scientists have found such a link.

The researchers say the finding could help understand how the brain works, and why some people develop mental decline, while others do not.

The Cohorts for Heart and Aging Research in Genomic Epidemiology (CHARGE) Consortium, which includes experts at the University of Edinburgh, brought together data from 12 different countries.

Data from 30,000 people, aged more than 45 years old were analysed.

The participants – none of whom had dementia – took cognitive function tests that included tests of simple, repeated coding under pressure of time.

Researchers then processed the results alongside details of each person’s genome to identify genetic variants or changes associated with speed of thinking skills.

Professor Ian Deary, from the University of Edinburgh, said: “Processing speed is thought to be a core capability for preserving other mental skills in older age.

That’s why my team at Edinburgh have focussed on it for the last 30 years.

“This inkling into why some people’s processing speed is more efficient than others is a small but encouraging advance in understanding the biological foundations of more efficient thinking.”