Taking advantage of an unusual database, researchers have been able to estimate the influence genes have on changes in our cognitive ability over a lifetime.
The database holds results of intelligence tests taken by a cohort of over 65 year olds in Scotland. What makes the database special is that it also holds results from intelligence tests sat by the same participants as children, providing a rare insight into cognitive change over a lifetime.
Analysis of the DNA provided by participants alongside the intelligence test results shows genes may influence 24% of changes in our intellectual performance as we age. While the environment asserts a greater influence, genes may help some brains age better than others.
The findings come with a health warning – the sample size is too small to provide statistical significance. However, the Scottish study gives points to avenues worthy of further exploration once data from larger long-term studies, such as the UK National Survey of Health and Development, become available.