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Keywords:

  • Association;
  • cognition;
  • cognitive impairment;
  • genes;
  • intelligence

Cognitive impairment in the elderly, caused by either normal ageing process or dementia, is an increasing problem in developed countries that has enormous social and economic considerations. Research investigating the genetic basis of cognition is a new and rapidly developing field that may aid in the development of new treatments for age-related cognitive deficit. Over the past 6 years, a number of quantitative trait loci (QTLs) have been associated with cognitive functioning in humans including loci within the genes catechol-o-methyltransferase, brain-derived neurotrophic factor, muscle segment homeobox 1, serotonin transporter 2A (HTR2A), cholinergic muscarinic receptor 2, cathepsin D, metabotrophic glutamate receptor and most recently the class II human leukocyte antigens. Unfortunately, inconsistency within the literature, which is a hallmark of almost all association studies investigating complex diseases and traits, is casting doubt as to which genes are truly associated with cognition and which are a result of Type 2 error. This review will highlight implicated intelligence QTLs, examine the probable reasons for the current discrepancies between reports and discuss the potential advantages that may be procured from the study of cognitive genetics.