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Brain structure mediates the association between height and cognitive ability

  • Author(s): Vuoksimaa, E
  • Panizzon, MS
  • Franz, CE
  • Fennema-Notestine, C
  • Jr, HDJ
  • Lyons, MJ
  • Dale, AM
  • Kremen, WS
  • et al.
Abstract

Height and general cognitive ability are positively associated, but the underlying mechanisms of this relationship are not well understood. Both height and general cognitive ability are positively associated with brain size. Still, the neural substrate of the height-cognitive ability association is unclear. We used a sample of 515 middle-aged male twins with structural magnetic resonance imaging data to investigate whether the association between height and cognitive ability is mediated by cortical size. In addition to cortical volume, we used genetically, ontogenetically and phylogenetically distinct cortical metrics of total cortical surface area and mean cortical thickness. Height was positively associated with general cognitive ability and total cortical volume and cortical surface area, but not with mean cortical thickness. Mediation models indicated that the well-replicated height-general cognitive ability association is accounted for by individual differences in total cortical volume and cortical surface area (highly heritable metrics related to global brain size), and that the genetic association between cortical surface area and general cognitive ability underlies the phenotypic height-general cognitive ability relationship.

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