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, 20 (9), 1146-52

Genes Determine Stability and the Environment Determines Change in Cognitive Ability During 35 Years of Adulthood

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Genes Determine Stability and the Environment Determines Change in Cognitive Ability During 35 Years of Adulthood

Michael J Lyons et al. Psychol Sci.

Abstract

Previous research has demonstrated stability of cognitive ability and marked heritability during adulthood, but questions remain about the extent to which genetic factors account for this stability. We conducted a 35-year longitudinal assessment of general cognitive ability using the Armed Forces Qualification Test administered to 7,232 male twins in early adulthood and readministered to a subset of 1,237 twins during late middle age. The proportion of variance in cognitive functioning explained by genetic factors was .49 in young adulthood and .57 in late middle age. The correlation between the two administrations was .74 with a genetic correlation of 1.0, indicating that the same genetic influences operated at both times. Genetic factors were primarily responsible for stability, and nonshared environmental factors were primarily responsible for change. The genetic factors influencing cognition may change across other eras, but the same genetic influences are operating from early adulthood to late middle age.

Figures

Fig. 1
Fig. 1
Bivariate correlated factors model for Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) scores at baseline (age 20) and during the Vietnam Era Twin Study of Aging (age 55). A = additive genetic factors; C = shared family environment; E = nonshared environment; rG = genetic correlation; rC = shared environment correlation; rE = nonshared environment correlation. Values adjacent to lines are path coefficients; values in parentheses are the 95% confidence intervals; values in brackets are standardized variance components (h2 = genetic influences; c2 = shared environment; e2 = nonshared environment).

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