Row Fogo Centre for Research into Ageing and the Brain
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New publication in Genome Biology

Publication date: January 2022

Publication title: "Blood-based epigenome-wide analyses of cognitive abilities"
Authors: McCartney DL, Hillary RF, Conole ELS, Banos DT, Gadd DA, Walker RM, Nangle C, Flaig R, Campbell A, Murray AD, Maniega SM, Valdés-Hernández MDC, Harris MA, Bastin ME, Wardlaw JM, Harris SE, Porteous DJ, Tucker-Drob EM, McIntosh AM, Evans KL, Deary IJ, Cox SR, Robinson MR, Marioni RE.


Background: Blood-based markers of cognitive functioning might provide an accessible way to track neurodegeneration years prior to clinical manifestation of cognitive impairment and dementia.

Results: Using blood-based epigenome-wide analyses of general cognitive function, we show that individual differences in DNA methylation (DNAm) explain 35.0% of the variance in general cognitive function (g). A DNAm predictor explains ~4% of the variance, independently of a polygenic score, in two external cohorts. It also associates with circulating levels of neurology- and inflammation-related proteins, global brain imaging metrics, and regional cortical volumes.

Conclusions: As sample sizes increase, the ability to assess cognitive function from DNAm data may be informative in settings where cognitive testing is unreliable or unavailable.

Keywords: Cognitive ability; DNA methylation; EWAS; Epidemiology; Prediction.


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