Gene variant may protect memory and thinking skills in older people

April 19, 2010

New research shows a gene variant may help protect the memory and thinking skills of older people. The research will be published in the April 20, 2010, issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

"This is the first study to identify a protective relationship between this and cognitive function," said study author Alexandra Fiocco, PhD, with the University of California, San Francisco.

For the study, researchers followed 2,858 African-American and Caucasian people between the ages of 70 and 79 for eight years. Participants' DNA was analyzed for the catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) gene, a gene shown in studies to affect . The allelic variants associated with this gene are the Val and Met variants.

The group was also given two types of thinking tests. One test measured skills such as language, concentration and memory. The other test measured response time, attention and judging sights and objects.

The study found that the Met variant of the COMT gene was linked to a greater decline in thinking skills over the years, while the Val variant had a protective effect on thinking skills, with lower declines over the years. In Caucasians, those with the Val variant scored 33 percent better over time than those without the variant. Among African-Americans, people with the Val allele gene variant scored 45 percent better over time than those who did not have the variant.

"This finding is interesting because in younger people, the Val has been shown to have a detrimental effect," Fiocco said. "But in our study of older people, the reverse was true. Finding connections between this gene, its variants and cognitive function may help scientists find new treatments for the prevention of ." Fiocco added, however, that the results need to be replicated by others before the field can be confident that the Met variant of the COMT gene plays a role in late life cognitive decline.

Explore further: Type 2 diabetes gene discovered

Related Stories

Longevity gene also protects memory, cognitive function

December 26, 2006

A gene variation that helps people live into their 90s and beyond also protects their memories and ability to think and learn new information, according to a study published in the December 26, 2006, issue of Neurology.

Researchers probe genetic underpinnings of nicotine addiction

December 9, 2008

A new study from the Abramson Cancer Center and Department of Psychiatry in the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine shows that smokers who carry a particular version of a gene for an enzyme that regulates dopamine ...

Gene may lead to early onset of brain tumor

January 26, 2009

People with a particular gene variant may be more likely to develop brain tumors, and at an earlier age, than people without the gene, according to a study published in the January 27, 2009, print issue of Neurology, the ...

The Protein for Quick Decision-Makers

October 26, 2009

( -- Everyday, people are required to make decisions quickly and flexibly. In a flash, they must weigh up the advantages, disadvantages and possible consequences of their behaviour and coordinate it with the relevant ...

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

( -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.