Genetic Predisposition to Educational Attainment and Its Relationship With Cognitive Decline

Xuejie Ding , University of Oxford
Nicola Barban, University of Essex
Felix C. Tropf, University of Oxford
Melinda Mills, University of Oxford

Recent studies have demonstrated a common genetic basis for educational attainment and cognitive abilities. There remains a gap in knowledge regarding whether the genetic effects on individual differences in cognition becomes more or less prominent over the life course. In this analysis of 5871 older adults from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) in the U.S., we measured change in cognitive performance over a 14-year period. Growth curve models are used to evaluate the association between a polygenic risk score for education and cognitive change. We found that individuals with a higher genetic predisposition for educational attainment perform better across all measures of cognition. Genetic predisposition to education is associated with faster decline in old age in fluid cognitive domains. Educational attainment has a protective effect on crystallised cognitive domains. These relationships are robust even after controlling for social, health and behavioural covariates.

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 Presented in Session 142. Genes and Health - Using Polygenic Scores