Better Cognition Seen with Gene Variant Carried by One in Five

Medical Xpress, May 8, 2014

A scientific team led by the Gladstone Institutes and UC San Francisco has discovered that a common form of a gene already associated with long life also improves learning and memory, a finding that could have implications for treating age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s.

The researchers found that people who carry a single copy of the KL-VS variant of the KLOTHO gene perform better on a wide variety of cognitive tests. When the researchers modeled the effects in mice, they found it strengthened the connections between neurons that make learning possible–what is known as synaptic plasticity–by increasing the action of a cell receptor critical to forming memories.

The discovery is a major step toward understanding how genes improve cognitive ability and could open a new route to treating diseases like Alzheimer’s. Researchers have long suspected that some people may be protected from the disease because of their greater cognitive capacity, or reserve. Since elevated levels of the klotho protein appear to improve cognition throughout the lifespan, raising klotho levels could build cognitive reserve as a bulwark against the disease.


Klotho was discovered in 1997 and named after the Fate from Greek mythology who spins the thread of life. The investigators found that people who carry a single copy of the KL-VS variant of the KLOTHO gene, roughly 20 percent of the population, have more klotho protein in their blood than non-carriers. Besides increasing the secretion of klotho, the KL-VS variant may also change the action of the protein and is known to lessen age-related cardiovascular disease and promote longevity.

The team’s report is the first to link the KL-VS variant, or allele, to better cognition in humans, and buttresses these findings with genetic, electrophysiological, biochemical and behavioral experiments in mice. The researchers tested the associations between the allele and age-related human cognition in three separate studies involving more than 700 people without dementia between the ages of 52 and 85. {snip}


Having the KL-VS allele did not seem to protect people from age-related cognitive decline. But overall the effect was to boost cognition, so that the middle-aged study participants began their decline from a higher point.


To get a closer look at how the gene variant operates, the researchers used mice that were engineered to produce more of the mouse version of klotho and found that these mice learned better at all stages of life. Put through mazes, these transgenic mice were more likely to try different routes, an indication that they had superior working memory. In a test of spatial learning and memory, the mice with extra klotho performed twice as well.

Researchers then analyzed the mouse brain tissue and found that the mice with elevated klotho had twice as many GluN2B subunits within synaptic connections. GluN2B is part of the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor, or NMDAR, a key receptor involved in synaptic plasticity.

The researchers found more GluN2B-containing receptors in the hippocampus and frontal cortex, brain regions that support cognitive functions. When the researchers gave the mice a drug that blocks the action of these receptors, the klotho-enhanced mice lost their cognitive advantage.

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  • Oil Can Harry

    Genes be rayciss!!!

    Dass why me an’ my homies never be wearin’ Levi’s or Wranglers…

  • dd121

    Can I guess who doesn’t have the gene?

  • JohnEngelman

    As time goes on more genes will be discovered that influence intelligence. Eventually a DNA test will be nearly as accurate as an IQ test in predicting academic and economic success.

  • Add a dose of that klotho protein to grape soda and KFC and the black problem would be solved. I’m sure that when Louis Farrakan reads this study, he will claim some evil white scientist stole the klotho gene from blacks eons ago, and Rev. Al will be demanding that Holder investigate the theft and punish the whites responsible.

  • trouble maker

    Of Mice and Men , who knew !

  • Reverend Bacon

    What’s really to love about this is that it will force medical science to baseline each race, and they will discover that a “normal” amount of the protein for race A is abnormal for race B, and so on. They will then develop different standards for dementia by race, and different treatments. Perhaps, if Obamacare doesn’t neuter our medical system, there will evolve specialists in different races. Separate but equal. Take that!

    • 1stworlder

      They had to drop being retarded from IQ 85 the avg for US blacks to 70IQ that avg for blacks in Africa because of the ruling about the death penalty.

  • 1stworlder

    Associated with long life and higher IQ that’s one racist gene.

    • WR_the_realist

      Yes, we’d better not let some nasty eugenicists cause more children to be born with that evil racist KLOTHO gene.

    • Sick of it

      We have such genes in my own family. People are shocked when my mother tells them her age.

      • 1stworlder

        I knew when I was in New Orleans that if I lived to my grandfathers’ age I would see it flooded in the news. My great grandmother was like the energizer bunny.

  • dcc2379

    Most blacks I know have the clepto gene instead of klotho.

    • Reverend Bacon

      you owe me one keyboard and one cup of coffee 🙂

  • rmk948

    It’s amazing how fast behavioral and cognitive genetics is advancing. Egalitarians are going to have to keep dancing faster and faster to keep this stuff out of the public eye.

    • willbest

      Yes I hope they find a cure for autism and Alzheimer’s both of which I have seen up close and personal, and for which nobody should be forced to suffer.

      • Urbane Neanderthal

        I just hope they can cure liberalism, because it’s victims are rarely those actually infected with the disease.

  • Anna Tree

    “Gauging the Intelligence of Infants” April 7 2014 Amren article, J. Russo commented:
    “Both genetic and environmental factors determine an individual’s
    intelligence. I like to think of genetics as the size of a cup and the
    environment as the amount of water available. If you’re in the middle of
    a desert, it doesn’t matter whether you have a big cup or a small cup.
    You’re not going to get any water, period. Similarly, even if we can
    identify infants as having greater biological potential, it would be
    pointless if we do not address the issues of poverty, socioeconomic
    injustices, and educational inequities that prevent whole communities
    from reaching their full potentials.”