Focused Review ARTICLE

Front. Neurosci., 15 December 2008 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/neuro.01.039.2008

Age-related decline in brain resources modulates genetic effects on cognitive functioning

1
Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin, Germany
2
Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland
3
Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig, Germany
4
Aging Research Center, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden

Individual differences in cognitive performance increase from early to late adulthood, likely reflecting influences of a multitude of factors. We hypothesize that losses in neurochemical and anatomical brain resources in normal aging modulate the effects of common genetic variations on cognitive functioning. Our hypothesis is based on the assumption that the function relating brain resources to cognition is nonlinear, so that genetic differences exert increasingly large effects on cognition as resources recede from high to medium levels in the course of aging. Direct empirical support for this hypothesis comes from a study by Nagel et al. (2008), who reported that the effects of the Catechol-O-Methyltransferase (COMT) gene on cognitive performance are magnified in old age and interacted with the Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) gene. We conclude that common genetic polymorphisms contribute to the increasing heterogeneity of cognitive functioning in old age. Extensions of the hypothesis to other polymorphisms are discussed. (150 of 150 words)
Keywords:
genes, aging, resources, cognition, dopamine
Citation:
Lindenberger U, Nagel IE, Chicherio C, Li S-C, Heekeren HR and Bäckman L (2008) Age-related decline in brain resources modulates genetic effects on cognitive functioning. Front. Neurosci. 2,2:. doi: 10.3389/neuro.01.039.2008
Received:
05 October 2008;
 Accepted:
11 November 2008;
Published online:
15 December 2008

Edited by:

Kenneth Hugdahl, University of Bergen, Norway

Reviewed by:

Nils I. Landro, University of Oslo, Norway
Kenneth Hugdahl, University of Bergen, Norway
Copyright:
© 2008 Lindenberger, Nagel, Chicherio, Li, Heekeren and Bäckman. This is an open-access article subject to an exclusive license agreement between the authors and the Frontiers Research Foundation, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original authors and source are credited.
*Correspondence:
Ulman Lindenberger, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Lentzeallee 94, 14195 Berlin, Germany. e-mail: lindenberger@mpib-berlin.mpg.de; Lars Bäckman, Aging Research Center, Karolinska Institutet, Gävlegatan 16, 11330 Stockholm, Sweden. e-mail: lars.backman.1@ki.se