The genetic influences on aging-related phenotypes, including cognition and depression, have been well confirmed in the Western populations. We performed the first twin-based analysis on cognitive performance, memory and depression status in middle-aged and elderly Chinese twins, representing the world's largest and most rapidly aging population. The sample consisted of 384 twin pairs with a median age of 50 years. Cognitive function was measured using the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) scale; memory was assessed using the revised Wechsler Adult Intelligence scale; depression symptomatology was evaluated by the self-reported 30-item Geriatric Depression (GDS-30)scale. Both univariate and multivariate twin models were fitted to the three phenotypes with full and nested models and compared to select the best fitting models. Univariate analysis showed moderate-to-high genetic influences with heritability 0.44 for cognition and 0.56 for memory. Multivariate analysis by the reduced Cholesky model estimated significant genetic (rG = 0.69) and unique environmental (rE = 0.25) correlation between cognitive ability and memory. The model also estimated weak but significant inverse genetic correlation for depression with cognition (-0.31) and memory (-0.28). No significant unique environmental correlation was found for depression with other two phenotypes. In conclusion, there can be a common genetic architecture for cognitive ability and memory that weakly correlates with depression symptomatology, but in the opposite direction.
Twin Research and Human Genetics, 2015, Vol 18, Issue 1, p. 79-85