Longitudinal associations of Epigenetic-g with cognitive development in children

My bioinformatics thesis from FU Berlin / Charité at the Max-Planck Institute of Human Development in the group Biosocial.

Associated on-going study is pre-registered at https://doi.org/10.17605/OSF.IO/8PCS7


Epigenetic-g, a DNA methylation biomarker to predict general cognition in adults, is correlated with the levels of general cognition in early childhood and with the development of general cognition over childhood years, confirming previously reported cross-sectional associations now longitudinally. Epigenetic-g is also associated with higher test-performances in math and reading related school subjects from grades 3 to 11, and with the attendance of optional advanced math classes in grades 9 to 11, although a low subset sample size makes the latter only an exploratory finding. These results are found in the Texas Twin Project cohort of children and adolescents (n = 2016, age = 8 to 20) by multilevel latent growth curve analyses.

Because a between-person variance in the changes of Epigenetic-g over years could not be captured, the validity of the results is suggested for long-term but not for short-term associations (i.e. time-lags under four years), which is supported by reports about limited Epigenetic-g stability in childhood and adolescence. Future longitudinally trained biomarkers in the developmental period may be needed to fully capture the sensitive changes of DNA methylation in association with environmental input and cognitive development in finer resolution.

These results mean, that Epigenetic-g may serve as a viable biomarker to enrich datasets with general cognitive information in developmental and pediatric research, or may be useful in the tracking of academic achievements over advantaged and disadvantaged school environments. Non-maleficience must be ensured by highlighting the role of environmental interventions and minimal individual applicability to prevent the emergence of risk-identities in children.