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Neurogenetics of cognition in aging

This project aims to explore the dynamical biological bases of cognition in an adult life span perspective by taking advantage of naturally occurring genetic variation among healthy people.

About the project

The project was started in 2003 and is one of very few large-scale projects involving a broad array of high intensity data from healthy participants.

Our research is based on the Norwegian Cognitive NeuroGenetics sample (NCNG), which consists of extensive genetic, demographic, cognitive and MRI based data from 700 healthy individuals across the adult age span.

The design makes it possible to address important questions in basic cognitive neuroscience research as well as clinical practice.


The project has three main objectives:

  • To explore the biology of cognition, including the molecular substrate of structural and functional properties of the brain, and of attention and memory

  • To describe dynamic changes in the biology of cognition throughout the adult life span using a combination of cross-sectional and longitudinal designs

  • To define critical differences between pathological and normal cognitive changes in aging


Scientific and technological developments in genetics and neuroimaging have laid the ground for breakthroughs in the characterization of the biological bases of brain function and cognition, with large expected gains for basic research and clinical neuroscience.

For example, aging has been described as a “neurocatastrophe” involving deterioration of multiple bodily systems fundamental to normal cognitive function, making aging the primary risk factor for development of neurodegenerative diseases. However, the biology of both cognition and aging is still poorly understood, sometimes making it difficult to segregate normal aging from incipient age related pathology.

We address these questions through the genome wide association scan (GWAS) approach, in which a large number of genetic variations across the genome (typically > 500000) is tested for association with one or more phenotypes without any prior hypothesis about patterns of associations. We also use the complementary candidate allelic association approach, in which hypotheses about effects of a predefined genetic variation on a given MRI based or cognitive phenotype is tested.

An international network of collaborators from George Mason University (USA), University of Bergen, University of Bonn, University of California San Diego, University of Copenhagen, University of Edinburgh, Tsinghua University (Beijing, China), are contributing knowhow, skills and data to the project.


The project is financed by the Research Council of Norway (grants to Ivar Reinvang and Thomas Espeseth), National Institutes of Mental Health (grant to Raja Parasuraman and Ivar Reinvang).

Published Oct. 26, 2010 11:35 AM - Last modified Feb. 24, 2016 1:57 PM