Scientists have discovered nearly 150 genes linked to thinking skills in a breakthrough that could help combat Alzheimer’s disease.
Fifty-eight of these genes have never been reported before.
A team led by the University of Edinburgh found 148 genes linked to having better thinking skills, such as memory, reasoning, speed of mental processing and spatial awareness.
Scientists said the results could help understanding of the declines in cognitive function that happen with illnesses such as dementia.
Scientists have discovered nearly 150 genes linked to thinking skills in a breakthrough that could help combat Alzheimer’s disease. Fifty-eight of these genes have never been reported before (stock image)
The study analysed data from 300,486 people aged between 16 and 102 who had taken part in 57 cohort studies in Australia, Europe and North America.
Dr Gail Davies, of University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology (CCACE), who led the analysis, said: ‘This study, the largest genetic study of cognitive function, has identified many genetic differences that contribute to the heritability of thinking skills.
‘The discovery of shared genetic effects on health outcomes and brain structure provides a foundation for exploring the mechanisms by which these differences influence thinking skills throughout a lifetime.’
As well as having better thinking skills, the genetic areas are also associated with better cardiovascular and mental health, decreased risk of lung cancer, and longer life.
Those who participated in the study had all taken a variety of thinking tests which were summarised as a general cognitive ability score.
All had genetic testing that examined their DNA and none of the people had dementia or a stroke.
Lead researcher and CCACE director Professor Ian Deary said: ‘Less than a decade ago we were searching for genes related to intelligence with about 3,000 participants, and we found almost nothing.
As well as having better thinking skills, the genetic areas are also associated with better cardiovascular and mental health, decreased risk of lung cancer, and longer life (stock image)
‘Now, with 100 times that number of participants, and with more than 200 scientists working together, we have discovered almost 150 genetic regions that are related to how clever people are.
‘We’ve also learned that we need even larger studies to see more of the picture. We also need to study our results closely to see what they can tell us about the possibility of understanding the declines in cognitive function that happen with illness and in older age.
‘One thing we know from these results is that good thinking skills are a part of good health overall.’
The study, published in Nature Communications, involved researchers in Australia, Austria, Croatia, Finland, France, Germany, Holland, Iceland, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, and the US.
WHAT IS DEMENTIA? THE KILLER DISEASE THAT ROBS SUFFERERS OF THEIR MEMORIES
Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of neurological disorders
A GLOBAL CONCERN
Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of progressive neurological disorders, that is, conditions affecting the brain.
There are many different types of dementia, of which Alzheimer’s disease is the most common.
Some people may have a combination of types of dementia.
Regardless of which type is diagnosed, each person will experience their dementia in their own unique way.
Dementia is a global concern but it is most often seen in wealthier countries, where people are likely to live into very old age.
HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE AFFECTED?
The Alzheimer’s Society reports there are more than 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK today.
It is estimated that the number of people living with dementia in the UK by 2025 will rise to over 1 million.
In the US, it’s estimated there are 5.5 million sufferers. A similar percentage rise is expected in the coming years.
As a person’s age increases, so does the risk of them developing dementia.
Rates of diagnosis are improving but many people with dementia are thought to still be undiagnosed.
IS THERE A CURE?
Currently there is no cure for dementia.
But new drugs can slow down its progression and the earlier it is spotted the more effective treatments are.
Source: Dementia UK