Aging-related magnification of genetic effects on cognitive and brain integrity

Trends Cogn Sci. 2015 Sep;19(9):506-14. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2015.06.008. Epub 2015 Jul 14.


Heritability studies document substantial genetic influences on cognitive performance and decline in old age. Increasing evidence shows that effects of genetic variations on cognition, brain structure, and brain function become stronger as people age. Disproportionate impairments are typically observed for older individuals carrying disadvantageous genotypes of different candidate genes. These data support the resource-modulation hypothesis, which states that genetic effects are magnified in persons with constrained neural resources, such as older adults. However, given that findings are not unequivocal, we discuss the need to address several factors that may resolve inconsistencies in the extant literature (gene-gene and gene-environment interactions, study populations, gene-environment correlations, and epigenetic mechanisms).

Keywords: aging; brain function; brain structure; cognition; genetics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / genetics*
  • Apolipoproteins E / genetics
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Gene-Environment Interaction*
  • Humans
  • Peptide Fragments / genetics


  • Apolipoproteins E
  • Peptide Fragments
  • apolipoprotein E (133-149)