- Our cognitive or higher functions add to our knowledge. Cognitive functions have been associated with physical and mental health.
- Cognitive function, physical and mental health are genetically determined.
- Researchers correlated genetic data with cognitive functions, physical and mental health and various body measurements.
Researchers found that babies with big heads may have better cognitive ability and attain better educational qualifications later in life. Their study was published in the Molecular Psychiatry.
Cognitive functions are higher brain activities like reasoning, memory, attention and language that result in adding to our knowledge. People with better health appear to have higher cognitive functions. Similarly, people with lower cognitive function appear to be at a higher risk of poor physical and mental health in later life.
Researchers obtained genetic data on 112 151 individuals between 40 and 73 years of age from the UK Biobank genetic data. Three tests were used to assess cognitive functions - reaction time to assess processing speed, memory, and verbal-numerical reasoning to assess their reasoning ability. The educational attainment of the participants, that is, whether they had a college or university degree, was also recorded.
Before you look up for how to ensure that your baby has a big head, or be disappointed if your children had a slightly smaller head at birth, it must be mentioned that this study has found a correlation between the above factors, and does not definitely state that a big head in infancy will get you a college degree without doubt. In fact, several other factors like the child's environment and upbringing affect the child's intelligence, and may actually have a larger influence on the child's IQ and educational attainments.
The researchers also found that educational attainment and cognitive functions were positively or negatively correlated with other conditions like Alzheimer's disease, autism, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
People at a higher genetic risk for conditions like coronary artery disease, diabetes or high blood pressure were associated with lower cognitive function or educational attainment even if they did not actually suffer from the condition.
- Hagenaars SP et al. Shared genetic aetiology between cognitive functions and physical and mental health in UK Biobank (N=112 151) and 24 GWAS consortia. Molecular Psychiatry. doi: 10.1038/mp.2015.225