Multi-level genomic analyses suggest new genetic variants involved in human memory


Memory is an important cognitive function for human beings. External information enters the brain by the perception system, and is encoded, processed, and stored by the memory system to become an individual's knowledge experience. Therefore, to a large extent, memory defines an individual. Previous studies have explored the genetic basis of memory through twin studies and family analysis. It is generally accepted that both short-term and long-term memories are moderately heritable. The heritability is 15%~72% for short-term memory (1-3), while 37%~55% for long-term memory (4). In recent years, with the development of sequencing technology, it has become popular to estimate heritability using genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphism sites. A recent study on memory genetics finds that the contribution of common single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) to short-term memory reached 31%~41% (5).


Based on the importance of memory and its known heritability, Peking University graduate students Zijian Zhu and Biqing Chen et al (6) performed whole genome wide genetic association analyses systematically and multi-dimensionally at the levels of SNP, gene, and pathway. GWAS in 1623 (short-term memory study) and 1522 (long-term memory study) Chinese young adults found SNPs including rs7011450, genes such as ZFAT and BCAT2, and such molecular pathways as mTOR signaling and  axon guidance, to be associated with short-term and long-term memory.These results were partially replicated in 2790 (short-term memory) and 1862 (long-term memory) indivviduals. The article entitled "Multi-level genomic analyses suggest new genetic variants involved in human memory" is published online in July 2018 in the European Journal of Human Genetics.



Recently, Yi Rao's Lab has been studying the biological basis of human cognition by analyzing human cognitive behavior. This is their third related paper. In 2016, Zijian Zhu et al (7) published a paper on human memory interference and re-consolidation mechanism in Cognition. In May 2018, Biqing Chen et al (8) published the first GWAS of human social conformity behavior. This latest paper by Zijian Zhu et al (6) is a genomic association analysis of human memory. The corresponding authors of the first paper were Yi Rao and Professor Yanhong Wu in the Department of Psychology; the corresponding author for the second paper was Yi Rao; the corresponding authors of the third paper were to doctoral students Zijian Zhu and Biqing Chen.

Chongqing Medical University and Southern Medical University are cooperative institutions.


Please download the PDF file from the website of Rao Lab:



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6. Zhu ZJ, Chen BQ, Yan HM, Fang W, Zhou Q, Zhou SB, Lei H, Huang AL, Chen TM, Gao TM, Chen L, Chen JY, Ni DS, Gu YP, Liu JN, Zhang WX, Rao Y (2018). Multi-level genomic analyses suggest new genetic variants involved in human memory. Eur J Hum Genet published online July 3rd, 2018

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8. Chen BQ, Zhu ZJ, Wang YY, Ding XH, Guo XB, He MG, Fang W, Zhou SB, Zhou Q, Huang AL, Chen TM, Ni DS, Gu YP, Liu JN, Lei H, Rao Y (2018). Nature vs. nurture in human sociality: multi-level genomic analyses of social conformity. J Hum Genet 63:605-619.