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Lifestyle and environment affect intelligence - study

Published on 19 January 2012 12:30 PM

A person's environment partly determines how mentally sharp they are in old age, according to new research.

A quarter of the changes seen in someone's level of intelligence from childhood to later life can be attributed to genes, meaning the remainder is caused by environment, scientists at the University of Edinburgh and University of Queensland say. The research also found that genes which influence a person's intelligence in childhood also play a key role in an older person's mental ability.

The study, published in the journal Nature, analysed hundreds of thousands of genetic markers in 2,000 people. This includes data from people whose intelligence level was measured when they were 11 and when they were 65-79.

Many of those people are participants in The Disconnected Mind, a major research project on cognitive ageing funded by Age UK.

Project leader Professor Ian Deary at the University of Edinburgh said: 'The results partly explain why some people's brains age better than others. We are careful to suggest that our estimates do not have conventional statistical significance, but they are nevertheless useful because such estimates have been unavailable to date.'

Age UK's James Goodwin said: 'This research is extremely exciting as it provides a greater understanding about why mental abilities change throughout our lifetime.

‘It is also incredibly positive as it suggests that we can have a real influence on how our brain ages through our lifestyle and other external factors.

'The key now is to establish which lifestyle and environmental factors are most important so that we are able to do all we can to maximise our chances of ageing well.

'Age UK is delighted to fund the Disconnected Mind which is a unique project, producing world-class research into cognitive ageing. For more information or to donate to the project, visit our Disconnected Mind page or call 08001 698 787.'

Copyright Press Association 2012

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Last updated: Dec 05 2018

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