Associations of Childhood, Adolescence, and Midlife Cognitive Function With Age Acceleration in Midlife


“[...] our study brings attention to the potential influence of adolescent crystalized intelligence on age-related DNAm at older age.”

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BUFFALO, NY- June 25, 2024 – A new research paper was published in Aging (listed by MEDLINE/PubMed as "Aging (Albany NY)" and "Aging-US" by Web of Science) Volume 16, Issue 11, entitled, “Associations of childhood, adolescence, and midlife cognitive function with DNA methylation age acceleration in midlife.”

Prior studies showed increased age acceleration (AgeAccel) is associated with worse cognitive function among old adults. In this new study, researchers Junyu Chen, Leah Moubadder, Elizabeth S. Clausing, Katrina L. Kezios, Karen N. Conneely, Anke Hüls, Andrea Baccarelli, Pam Factor-Litvak, Piera Cirrillo, Rachel C. Shelton, Bruce G. Link, and Shakira F. Suglia from Emory University, University of Nebraska, Columbia University, Public Health Institute, Washington, DC, and the University of California Riverside examined the associations of childhood, adolescence and midlife cognition with AgeAccel based on DNA methylation (DNAm) in midlife.

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to show the association of cognition at younger age with midlife age acceleration, and associations between midlife age acceleration measures and cognitive function that are independent of childhood and adolescent cognition.”

Data are from 359 participants who had cognition measured in childhood and adolescence in the Child Health and Development study, and had cognition, blood based DNAm measured during midlife in the Disparities study. Childhood cognition was measured by Raven’s Progressive Matrices and Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT). Adolescent cognition was measured only by PPVT. Midlife cognition included Wechsler Test of Adult Reading (WTAR), Verbal Fluency (VF), Digit Symbol (DS). AgeAccel measures including Horvath, Hannum, PhenoAge, GrimAge and DunedinPACE were calculated from DNAm. Linear regressions adjusted for potential confounders were utilized to examine the association between each cognitive measure in relation to each AgeAccel.

There are no significant associations between childhood cognition and midlife AgeAccel. A 1-unit increase in adolescent PPVT, which measures crystalized intelligence, is associated with 0.048-year decrease of aging measured by GrimAge and this association is attenuated after adjustment for adult socioeconomic status. Midlife crystalized intelligence measure WTAR is negatively associated with PhenoAge and DunedinPACE, and midlife fluid intelligence measure (DS) is negatively associated with GrimAge, PhenoAge and DunedinPACE. AgeAccel is not associated with VF in midlife.

“In conclusion, our study showed the potential role of cognitive functions at younger ages in the process of biological aging. We also showed a potential relationship of both crystalized and fluid intelligence with aging acceleration.”

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Corresponding Author: Junyu Chen

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Keywords: age acceleration, adolescent cognition, adult cognition, biological aging, epigenetics

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Cancer and aging are two sides of age-related tumorigenesis.

The mission of the journal is to understand the mechanisms surrounding aging and age-related diseases, including cancer as the main cause of death in the modern aged population.

The journal aims to promote 1) treatment of age-related diseases by slowing down aging, 2) validation of anti-aging drugs by treating age-related diseases, and 3) prevention of cancer by inhibiting aging. (Cancer and COVID-19 are age-related diseases.)

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