Brain Aging Firmly Linked to Genetics in Large Study
of Large Families
Study funded by National Institutes of Health
provides crucial step in determining normal aging
Nov. 4, 2013 – The decline in our mental abilities
as we age is not just by chance, or bad choices, nor due to the
challenges in our lives. The decline in brain function in normal aging
is conclusively shown to be influenced by our genes, according to a
large new study by researchers from the Texas Biomedical Research
Institute in San Antonio and Yale University.
"Identification of genes associated with brain
aging should improve our understanding of the biological processes that
govern normal age-related decline," said John Blangero, Ph.D., a Texas
Biomed geneticist and the senior author of the paper.
The study, funded by the National Institutes of
Health (NIH), is published in the November 4, 2013 issue of the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. David Glahn, Ph.D.,
an associate professor of psychiatry at the Yale University School of
Medicine, is the first author on the paper.
In studying 1,129 people aged 18 to 83, the
scientists documented profound aging effects from young adulthood to old
age, on neurocognitive ability and brain white matter measures. White
matter actively affects how the brain learns and functions. Genetic
material shared amongst biological relatives appears to predict the
observed changes in brain function with age.
Participants were enrolled in the Genetics of Brain
Structure and Function Study and drawn from large Mexican-American
families in San Antonio. Brain imaging studies were conducted at the
University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio Research
Imaging Institute directed by Peter Fox, M.D.
"The use of large human pedigrees provides a
powerful resource for measuring how genetic factors change with age,"
By applying a sophisticated analysis, the
scientists demonstrated a heritable basis for neurocognitive
deterioration with age that could be attributed to genetic factors.
Similarly, decreasing white matter integrity with age was influenced by
genes. The investigators further demonstrated that different sets of
genes are responsible for these two biological aging processes.
"A key advantage of this study is that we
specifically focused on large extended families and so we were able to
disentangle genetic from non-genetic influences on the aging process,"
Notes: This research was supported by NIH grants
MH0708143, MH078111, MH083824, MH59490, EB015611, C06 RR13556, CO6
RR017515, S10 RR029392.
Texas Biomed, formerly the Southwest Foundation for
Biomedical Research, is reportedly one of the world's leading
independent biomedical research institutions dedicated to advancing
global human health through innovative biomedical research. Located on a
200-acre campus on the northwest side of San Antonio, Texas. For more
information on Texas Biomed, go to
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