Large-Scale Cognitive GWAS Meta-Analysis Reveals Tissue-Specific Neural Expression and Potential Nootropic Drug Targets

Cell Rep. 2017 Nov 28;21(9):2597-2613. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2017.11.028.


Here, we present a large (n = 107,207) genome-wide association study (GWAS) of general cognitive ability ("g"), further enhanced by combining results with a large-scale GWAS of educational attainment. We identified 70 independent genomic loci associated with general cognitive ability. Results showed significant enrichment for genes causing Mendelian disorders with an intellectual disability phenotype. Competitive pathway analysis implicated the biological processes of neurogenesis and synaptic regulation, as well as the gene targets of two pharmacologic agents: cinnarizine, a T-type calcium channel blocker, and LY97241, a potassium channel inhibitor. Transcriptome-wide and epigenome-wide analysis revealed that the implicated loci were enriched for genes expressed across all brain regions (most strongly in the cerebellum). Enrichment was exclusive to genes expressed in neurons but not oligodendrocytes or astrocytes. Finally, we report genetic correlations between cognitive ability and disparate phenotypes including psychiatric disorders, several autoimmune disorders, longevity, and maternal age at first birth.

Keywords: GWAS; calcium channel; cerebellum; gene expression; general cognitive ability; neurodevelopment; nootropics; potassium channel; synapse.

MeSH terms

  • Cefotaxime / analogs & derivatives
  • Cefotaxime / pharmacology
  • Cognition / drug effects
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Female
  • Genetic Loci / genetics
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics
  • Genome-Wide Association Study / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nootropic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide / genetics
  • Synapses / drug effects
  • Synapses / metabolism


  • Nootropic Agents
  • LY 97962
  • Cefotaxime

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