The brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) promotes activity-dependent synaptic plasticity, and contributes to learning and memory. We investigated whether a common Val66Met missense polymorphism (rs6265) of the BDNF gene is associated with individual differences in cognitive decline (marked by perceptual speed) in old age. A total of 376 participants of the Berlin Aging Study, with a mean age of 83.9 years at first occasion, were assessed longitudinally up to 11 times across more than 13 years on the Digit-Letter task. Met carriers (n = 123, 34%) showed steeper linear decline than Val homozygotes (n = 239, 66%); the corresponding contrast explained 2.20% of the variance in change in the entire sample, and 3.41% after excluding individuals at risk for dementia. These effects were not moderated by sex or socioeconomic status. Results are consistent with the hypothesis that normal aging magnifies the effects of common genetic variation on cognitive functioning.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Social Psychology
- Geriatrics and Gerontology