Working memory, the capacity of actively maintaining task-relevant information during a cognitive task, is a heritable trait. Working memory deficits are characteristic for many psychiatric disorders. We performed genome-wide gene set enrichment analyses in multiple independent data sets of young and aged cognitively healthy subjects (n = 2,824) and in a large schizophrenia case-control sample (n = 32,143). The voltage-gated cation channel activity gene set, consisting of genes related to neuronal excitability, was robustly linked to performance in working memory-related tasks across ages and to schizophrenia. Functional brain imaging in 707 healthy participants linked this gene set also to working memory-related activity in the parietal cortex and the cerebellum. Gene set analyses may help to dissect the molecular underpinnings of cognitive dimensions, brain activity, and psychopathology.
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