In the first twin study of the old-old, individuals 80 years old and older, we examined the relationship between general and specific cognitive abilities from a genetic perspective. That is, we examined the extent to which genetic and environmental factors influence major group factors of cognitive abilities, independent of general cognitive ability. As part of the OctoTwin project in Sweden, general and specific cognitive abilities were assessed in 52 monozygotic and 65 same-sex dizygotic twin pairs 80 years old and older using a battery of seven tests that assess verbal, spatial, speed-of-processing, and memory performance. Results suggest that genetic effects associated with general cognitive ability (g) account for the correlation between g and verbal, spatial, and speed-of-processing abilities. No genetic influences were found for these specific cognitive abilities separate from g. In contrast, memory ability appears to be more distinct genetically from g than are other cognitive abilities. Comparison with younger samples suggests that cognitive abilities relating to speed of processing may be genetically dedifferentiated in the old-old.
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