Mol Psychiatry 2019 Dec 3. Epub 2019 Dec 3.
Centre for Genomic and Experimental Medicine, Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK.
Individuals of the same chronological age exhibit disparate rates of biological ageing. Consequently, a number of methodologies have been proposed to determine biological age and primarily exploit variation at the level of DNA methylation (DNAm). A novel epigenetic clock, termed 'DNAm GrimAge' has outperformed its predecessors in predicting the risk of mortality as well as many age-related morbidities. However, the association between DNAm GrimAge and cognitive or neuroimaging phenotypes remains unknown. We explore these associations in the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936 (n = 709, mean age 73 years). Higher DNAm GrimAge was strongly associated with all-cause mortality over the eighth decade (Hazard Ratio per standard deviation increase in GrimAge: 1.81, P < 2.0 × 10). Higher DNAm GrimAge was associated with lower age 11 IQ (β = -0.11), lower age 73 general cognitive ability (β = -0.18), decreased brain volume (β = -0.25) and increased brain white matter hyperintensities (β = 0.17). There was tentative evidence for a longitudinal association between DNAm GrimAge and cognitive decline from age 70 to 79. Sixty-nine of 137 health- and brain-related phenotypes tested were significantly associated with GrimAge. Adjusting all models for childhood intelligence attenuated to non-significance a small number of associations (12/69 associations; 6 of which were cognitive traits), but not the association with general cognitive ability (33.9% attenuation). Higher DNAm GrimAge associates with lower cognitive ability and brain vascular lesions in older age, independently of early-life cognitive ability. This epigenetic predictor of mortality associates with different measures of brain health and may aid in the prediction of age-related cognitive decline.