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Brain Health

Gene Variant Linked to Cognitive Skills

People with a gene variant linked to longevity also have also have a larger volume in a part of the brain involved in planning and decision-making, according to researchers.

The finding, by researchers from the University of California San Francisco, builds on the team’s earlier discovery that middle-aged and older people who carry the variant, KL-VS, did better on a wide range of cognitive tests than those who don’t.

The study was published in Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology.

In the study, the researchers scanned the brains of 422 cognitively normal men and women aged 53 and older. According to a news release from the university, the presence of the gene variant was linked to the size of a region called the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (rDLPFC), which is especially vulnerable to atrophy as people age.

Researchers discovered that while the rDLPFC shrank with age in all the subjects, the ones with the gene variant – about a quarter of the study group – had a larger rDLPFC. The gene variant also predicted how well the subjects performed on cognitive tests, such as the ability to retain newly acquired information.

“We’ve known for a long time that people lose cognitive abilities as they age, but now we’re beginning to understand that factors like klotho can give people a boost and confer resilience in aging,” said senior author Dena Dubal, MD, PhD, assistant professor of neurology at UCSF and the David A. Coulter Endowed Chair in Aging and Neurodegenerative Disease.

“Genetic variation…could help us predict brain health and find ways to protect people from the devastating diseases that happen to us as we grow old, like Alzheimer’s and other dementias.”

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