The bidirectional effects between cognitive ability and brain morphology: A life course Mendelian randomization analysis

Roxanna Korologou-Linden, Isabel K Schuurmans, Charlotte A M Cecil, Tonya White, Tobias Banaschewski, Arun L W Bokde, Sylvane Desrivières, Antoine Grigis, Hugh Garavan, Penny Gowland, Andreas Heinz, Rüdiger Brühl, Marie-Laure Paillère Martinot, Marie-Laure Paillère Martinot, Eric Artiges, Frauke Nees, Dimitri Papadopoulos Orfanos, Tomáš Paus, Luise Poustka, Nathalie HolzJuliane H Fröhner, M Smolka, Henrik Walter, Jeanne Winterer, Robert Whelan, Gunter Schumann, Laura D Howe, Yoav Ben-Shlomo, Neil M Davies, Emma L Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)


INTRODUCTION: Little is understood about the dynamic interplay between brain morphology and cognitive ability across the life course. Additionally, most existing research has focused on global morphology measures such as estimated total intracranial volume, mean thickness, and total surface area.

METHODS: Mendelian randomization was used to estimate the bidirectional effects between cognitive ability, global and regional measures of cortical thickness and surface area, estimated total intracranial volume, total white matter, and the volume of subcortical structures (N=37,864). Analyses were stratified for developmental periods (childhood, early adulthood, mid-to-late adulthood; age range: 8-81 years).

RESULTS: The earliest effects were observed in childhood and early adulthood in the frontoparietal lobes. A bidirectional relationship was identified between higher cognitive ability, larger estimated total intracranial volume (childhood, mid-to-late adulthood) and total surface area (all life stages). A thicker posterior cingulate cortex and a larger surface area in the caudal middle frontal cortex and temporal pole were associated with greater cognitive ability. Contrary, a thicker temporal pole was associated with lower cognitive ability.

DISCUSSION: Stable effects of cognitive ability on brain morphology across the life course suggests that childhood is potentially an important window for intervention.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 17 Nov 2023


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