University of Oulu

Tölli, P, Keltikangas-Järvinen, L, Lehtimäki, T, et al. The relationship between temperament, polygenic score for intelligence and cognition: A population-based study of middle-aged adults. Genes, Brain and Behavior. 2022; 21( 4):e12798. doi:10.1111/gbb.12798

The relationship between temperament, polygenic score for intelligence and cognition : a population-based study of middle-aged adults

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Author: Tölli, Pekka1; Keltikangas-Järvinen, Liisa1; Lehtimäki, Terho2,3;
Organizations: 1Department of Psychology and Logopedics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
2Department of Clinical Chemistry, Fimlab Laboratories, and Finnish Cardiovascular Research Center, Tampere, Finland
3Faculty of Medicine and Health Technology, Tampere University, Tampere, Finland
4Research Unit of Psychology, Faculty of Education, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
5Department of Internal Medicine, Satasairaala Central Hospital, Pori, Finland
6Psychiatric and Neurodevelopmental Genetics Unit, Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
7Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM), University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
8Research Centre for Applied and Preventive Cardiovascular Medicine, University of Turku, Turku, Finland
9Sports Exercise Medicine Unit, Department of Physical Activity and Health, Paavo Nurmi Centre, Turku, Finland
10Department of Clinical Physiology, Tampere University Hospital, Tampere, Finland
11Tampere Centre for Skills Training and Simulation, Tampere University, Tampere, Finland
12Department of Pediatrics and Adolescents, Oulu University Hospital, Oulu, Finland
13PEDEGO Research Unit and Medical Research Center Oulu, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
14Vaasa Central Hospital, Vaasa, Finland
15Department of Pediatrics, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
16Department of Pediatrics, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
17Hospital for Children and Adolescents, Helsinki University Hospital, Helsinki, Finland
18Centre for Population Health Research, University of Turku and Turku University Hospital, Turku, Finland
19Department of Clinical Physiology and Nuclear Medicine, Turku University Hospital, Turku, Finland
20Department of Psychiatry, Washington University, St. Louis, Washington, USA
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.8 MB)
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Language: English
Published: John Wiley & Sons, 2022
Publish Date: 2022-11-30


We investigated whether temperament modifies an association between polygenic intelligence potential and cognitive test performance in midlife. The participants (n = 1647, born between 1962 and 1977) were derived from the Young Finns Study. Temperament was assessed with Temperament and Character Inventory over a 15-year follow-up (1997, 2001, 2007, 2012). Polygenic intelligence potential was assessed with a polygenic score for intelligence. Cognitive performance (visual memory, reaction time, sustained attention, spatial working memory) was assessed with CANTAB in midlife. The PGSI was significantly associated with the overall cognitive performance and performance in visual memory, sustained attention and working memory tests but not reaction time test. Temperament did not correlate with polygenic score for intelligence and did not modify an association between the polygenic score and cognitive performance, either. High persistence was associated with higher visual memory (B = 0.092; FDR-adj. p = 0.007) and low harm avoidance with higher overall cognitive performance, specifically better reaction time (B = −0.102; FDR-adj; p = 0.007). The subscales of harm avoidance had different associations with cognitive performance: higher “anticipatory worry,” higher “fatigability,” and lower “shyness with strangers” were associated with lower cognitive performance, while the role of “fear of uncertainty” was subtest-related. In conclusion, temperament does not help or hinder one from realizing their genetic potential for intelligence. The overall modest relationships between temperament and cognitive performance advise caution if utilizing temperament-related information e.g. in working-life recruitments. Cognitive abilities may be influenced by temperament variables, such as the drive for achievement and anxiety about test performance, but they involve distinct systems of learning and memory.

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Series: Genes, brain and behavior
ISSN: 1601-1848
ISSN-E: 1601-183X
ISSN-L: 1601-1848
Volume: 21
Article number: e12798
DOI: 10.1111/gbb.12798
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 515 Psychology
3111 Biomedicine
Funding: The Young Finns Study has been financially supported by the Academy of Finland: grants 322098, 286284, 134309 (Eye), 126925, 121584, 124282, 129378 (Salve), 117787 (Gendi) and 41071 (Skidi); the Social Insurance Institution of Finland; Competitive State Research Financing of the Expert Responsibility area of Kuopio, Tampere and Turku University Hospitals (grant X51001); Juho Vainio Foundation; Paavo Nurmi Foundation; Finnish Foundation for Cardiovascular Research; Finnish Cultural Foundation; The Sigrid Juselius Foundation; Tampere Tuberculosis Foundation; Emil Aaltonen Foundation; Yrjö Jahnsson Foundation; Signe and Ane Gyllenberg Foundation; Diabetes Research Foundation of Finnish Diabetes Association; This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreements No 848146 for To Aition and grant agreement 755320 for TAXINOMISIS; European Research Council (grant 742927 for MULTIEPIGEN project); Tampere University Hospital Supporting Foundation and Finnish Society of Clinical Chemistry.
Copyright information: © 2022 The Authors. Genes, Brain and Behavior published by International Behavioural and Neural Genetics Society and John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited and is not used for commercial purposes.