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Behav Genet. 2013 Nov;43(6):468-79. doi: 10.1007/s10519-013-9612-z. Epub 2013 Aug 30.

Cognitive change in older women using a computerised battery: a longitudinal quantitative genetic twin study.

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Department of Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology, Kings College London, Block 7 South Wing, 3rd Floor, St Thomas' Campus, Lambeth Palace Road, London, SE1 7EH, UK,


Cognitive performance is known to change over age 45, especially processing speed. Studies to date indicate that change in performance with ageing is largely environmentally mediated, with little contribution from genetics. We estimated the heritability of a longitudinal battery of computerised cognitive tests including speed measures, using a classical twin design. 324 (127 MZ, 197 DZ) female twins, aged 43-73 at baseline testing, were followed-up after 10 years, using seven measures of the Cambridge Automated Neuropsychological Test battery, four of which were measures of response latency (speed). Results were analysed using univariate and bivariate structural equation modelling. Heritability of longitudinal change was found in 5 of the 7 tests, ranging from 21 to 41%. The genetic aetiology was remarkably stable. The first principle component of change was strongly associated with age (p < 0.001) and heritable at 47% (27-62%). While estimates for heritability increased in all measures over time compared to baseline, these increases were statistically non-significant. This computerised battery showed significant heritability of age-related change in cognition. Focus on this form of change may aid the search for genetic pathways involved in normal and pre-morbid cognitive ageing.

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