Genome-Wide Association Study of Latent Cognitive Measures in Adolescence: Genetic Overlap With Intelligence and Education

Mind Brain Educ. 2019 Aug;13(3):224-233. doi: 10.1111/mbe.12198. Epub 2019 Jun 30.


Individual differences in executive functions (EF) are heritable and predictive of academic attainment (AA). However, little is known about genetic contributions to EFs or their genetic relationship with AA and intelligence. We conducted genome-wide association analyses for processing speed (PS) and the latent EF measures of working memory (WM) and inhibitory control (IC) in 4,611 adolescents from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. While no loci reached genome-wide significance, common genetic variants explained 30% of the variance in WM and 19% in PS. In contrast, we failed to find common genetic contributions to IC. Finally, we examined shared genetic effects between EFs and general intelligence, AA and ADHD. We identified significant genetic correlations between WM, intelligence, and AA. A more specific pattern was observed for PS, with modest genetic overlap with intelligence. Together these findings highlight diversity in the genetic contributions to specific cognitive functions and their genetic relationship with educational and psychiatric outcomes.