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Behav Cogn Neurosci Rev. 2003 Dec;2(4):278-306.

Normal genetic variation, cognition, and aging.

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  • 1Catholic University of America, USA.


This article reviews the modulation of cognitive function by normal genetic variation. Although the heritability of "g" is well established, the genes that modulate specific cognitive functions are largely unidentified. Application of the allelic association approach to individual differences in cognition has begun to reveal the effects of single nucleotide polymorphisms on specific and general cognitive functions. This article proposes a framework for relating genotype to cognitive phenotype by considering the effect of genetic variation on the protein product of specific genes within the context of the neural basis of particular cognitive domains. Specificity of effects is considered, from genes controlling part of one receptor type to genes controlling agents of neuronal repair, and evidence is reviewed of cognitive modulation by polymorphisms in dopaminergic and cholinergic receptor genes, dopaminergic enzyme genes, and neurotrophic genes. Although allelic variation in certain genes can be reliably linked to cognition--specifically to components of attention, working memory, and executive function in healthy adults--the specificity, generality, and replicability of the effects are not fully known.

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