Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a pleiotropic protein involved in neuronal proliferation, differentiation, synaptic plasticity and survival. Independent studies investigating association between the functional BDNF Val66Met polymorphism and cognitive abilities have reported some conflicting findings, which may reflect inadequate sample size, variation in testing methods, population stratification or the confounding effects of other genes. To test the latter hypothesis, we screened and genotyped polymorphisms in the RE1-silencing transcription factor (REST) gene whose function includes the downregulation of BDNF expression. We identified an exon 4 hexadecapeptide variable number tandem repeat (VNTR) with either four or five copies that was located within a proline-rich domain and investigated a further five single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). Using a cohort of 746 community-dwelling older volunteers, we analysed REST genotype data both independently and in combination with the BDNF Val66Met polymorphism. A haplotype within the REST gene containing the four copy VNTR and a non-synonymous SNP showed a weak but significant association with a higher score of general intelligence (P = 0.05). Analysis of this haplotype and the BDNF Val66Met polymorphism in combination showed a significant interaction (global P-value = 0.0003) with an additive increase in cognitive performance for those possessing the BDNF Val66 allele and the REST haplotype containing the four copy repeat (P = 0.004). The REST haplotypes in combination with the BDNF Met66 polymorphism did not reduce cognitive performance more than the independent influence of the Met66 allele. Our results suggest that investigation of a common REST polymorphism may be necessary to help reduce contrasting reports based around BDNF Val66Met and cognition.