In the largest study of the genetics of memory ever undertaken, an international researcher team including scientists from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), have discovered two common genetic variants that are believed to be associated with memory performance. The findings, which appear in the journal Biological Psychiatry, are a significant step towards better understanding how memory loss is inherited.
Longer life spans and the increased prevalence of memory impairment and dementia world-wide underscore the critical public health importance of efforts aimed at deciphering the underlying mechanisms of human memory.
The Cohorts for Heart and Aging Research in Genomic Epidemiology (CHARGE) consortium was developed to facilitate the study of the entire genome through pooling of data from research centers all across the world. Nearly 30,000 participants who did not have dementia were included in the study.
Each participant completed memory tests, such as word recall, and their entire genome was genotyped. Using sophisticated statistical analysis, the genome was examined for segments that were associated with low memory scores.
The researchers found genetic variants near the Apolipoprotein E gene, known to harbor an increased risk of dementia (especially Alzheimer disease), were associated with poorer memory performance, mostly so in the oldest participants and for the short story recall. In a sub-study with post-mortem brain samples, participants with an increasing load of memory risk variants also had more pathological features of Alzheimer disease, perhaps reflecting in some instances early pre-clinical stages of the disease.
According to the researchers two additional regions of the genome, pointing to genes involved in immune response, were associated with the ability to recall word lists, providing new support for an important role of immune system dysfunction in age-related memory decline.
"Interestingly genetic variants associated with memory performance also predicted altered levels of expression of certain genes in the hippocampus, a key region of the brain for the consolidation of information. These were mainly genes involved in the metabolism of ubiquitin that plays a pivotal role in protein degradation," explained lead author Stéphanie Debette, MD, PhD, adjunct associate professor of neurology at BUSM.
This unprecedented world-wide collaboration has generated novel important hypotheses on the biological underpinnings of memory decline in old age, however the researchers caution that more research is clearly needed to confirm these findings. "The differential associations according to memory test characteristics and age should be accounted for in future studies. Exploring other types of genetic variation, including rare variants and epigenetic modifications, will be crucial to decipher the full spectrum of memory heritability," added Debette.
This study was funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute's (NHLBI) Framingham Heart Study, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and the National Institute of Aging (NIA) AG033193, 081220 and U0149505 (Seshadri) and NHLBI HL096917 (Mosley).
Gina DiGravio | EurekAlert!
The balancing act: An enzyme that links endocytosis to membrane recycling
07.12.2016 | National Centre for Biological Sciences
Transforming plant cells from generalists to specialists
07.12.2016 | Duke University
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine
07.12.2016 | Life Sciences
07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine