Fluctuating Asymmetry, Ageing, and Cognition

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Presenter: Timothy Bates


Understanding the cognitive development and cognitive aging is of significant importance and biological markers linking these disparate processes would be particularly informative. We assessed fluctuating asymmetry (FA) at age 87 in the Lothian Birth Cohort 1921 as a marker of early developmental precision. Lower FA was significantly associated with better verbal, spatial, and abstract reasoning at age 87, and to intelligence tested 76 years earlier. This suggests that FA is a persistent archeological marker of early development, and that this is in turn an indicator of brain and cognitive reserve. The association of FA to cognition had very similar effect sizes across 76 years and across different tests. The results suggest that early developmental precision may be implicated in cognitive and bodily aging, acting as a “common cause” of these processes, and suggesting that a determinant of cognitive aging can be studied and perhaps modified in youth.


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