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Genetic and Environmental Influences on Correlations Between Hearing and Cognitive Functions in Middle and Older Chinese Twins

  • Chunsheng Xu (a1) (a2) (a3), Dongfeng Zhang (a1), Xiaocao Tian (a2) (a3), Haiping Duan (a1) (a2) (a3), Yili Wu (a1), Zengchang Pang (a1) (a2) (a3), Shuxia Li (a4) and Qihua Tan (a4) (a5)...

Abstract

The genetic and environmental impacts on correlations between hearing and cognitive functions have not been well studied. Cognitive function was evaluated by the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA). Hearing function was assessed by audiometric pure-tone hearing thresholds at different frequencies, including 0.5 kHz, 1 kHz, 2 kHz, 4 kHz, 8 kHz, and 12.5 kHz, with the lower hearing thresholds indicating better hearing function. Cognitive and hearing functions were measured on 379 complete twin pairs (240 monozygotic and 139 dizygotic pairs) with a median age of 50 years (range: 40–80 years). Bivariate twin models were fitted to quantify the genetic and environmental components of the correlations between hearing and cognitive functions. The analysis showed significantly high genetic correlation between 2 kHz of hearing and cognition (r G = −1.00, 95% CI [−1.00, −0.46]) and moderate genetic correlation between 4 kHz of hearing and cognition (r G = −0.62, 95% CI [−1.00, −0.14]). We found no significant genetic correlations between low as well as high frequencies of hearing and cognition. Low to moderate common and unique environmental correlations were shown between low frequencies of hearing and cognition (−0.13 to −0.39) and the common environmental correlation between 8 kHz, one of the high frequencies of hearing, and cognition (−0.22). The middle frequencies of hearing and cognitive functions may have a shared genetic basis. Low frequencies of hearing and cognition may share similar common and unique environmental factors. At 8 kHz, the high frequency of hearing and cognition may share similar common environment. This twin study detected a significant genetic and environmental basis in the phenotype correlation between cognition and hearing, which differed across frequencies.

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Corresponding author

address for correspondence: Prof. Dongfeng Zhang, School of Public Health, Qingdao University, No. 38 Dengzhou Road, Shibei District, Qingdao, Shandong 266021, China. E-mail: zhangdongfeng@qdu.edu.cn

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Twin Research and Human Genetics
  • ISSN: 1832-4274
  • EISSN: 1839-2628
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