Successful cognitive development between childhood and adulthood has important consequences for future mental and physical wellbeing, as well as occupational and financial success. Therefore, delineating the genetic influences underlying changes in cognitive abilities during this developmental period will provide important insights into the biological mechanisms that govern both typical and atypical maturation. Using data from the Philadelphia Neurodevelopmental Cohort (PNC), a large population-based sample of individuals aged 8 to 21 years old (n = 6634), we used an empirical relatedness matrix to establish the heritability of general and specific cognitive functions and determine if genetic factors influence cognitive maturation (i.e., Gene × Age interactions) between childhood and early adulthood. We found that neurocognitive measures across childhood and early adulthood were significantly heritable. Moreover, genetic variance on general cognitive ability, or g, increased significantly between childhood and early adulthood. Finally, we did not find evidence for decay in genetic correlation on neurocognition throughout childhood and adulthood, suggesting that the same genetic factors underlie cognition at different ages throughout this developmental period. Establishing significant Gene × Age interactions in neurocognitive functions across childhood and early adulthood is a necessary first step in identifying genes that influence cognitive development, rather than genes that influence cognition per se. Moreover, since aberrant cognitive development confers risk for several psychiatric disorders, further examination of these Gene × Age interactions may provide important insights into their etiology.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Psychiatry and Mental health