Read our research highlights and browse through associated Genome-Wide Association Study (GWAS) and Epigenome-Wide Association Study (EWAS) summary data.

  Our research aims to understand the link between early life experiences and later life cognitive, brain, health and disease outcomes.

  • You can find a list of publications with the Lothian Birth Cohorts data on our Publications page. Most of our publications are open to the public and freely available online.
  • For accessible research updates, you can browse through our newsletters.
  • For an accessible overview of our research findings, you can read through a handbook celebrating 20 years of Lothian Birth Cohorts (September 2019):
Lothian Birth Cohort participant with childhood photo at age 11

The importance of childhood experience

LBC1936 results show that good thinking skills in childhood predict good thinking skills in later life. About 50% of individual differences in older-age cognitive ability is accounted for by childhood IQ.

Secrets to staying sharp

Our studies show that differences in people’s genes might account for about 25% of the variation in how thinking skills change from childhood to old age.

Cognitive function is harmed by smoking, loneliness and social isolation, and is aided by maintaining physical activity into older age.

Read this free 2017 article to find out more about how genetic variation, health and fitness, psychosocial and lifestyle factors, and aspects of the brain's structure correlate with good health in older age.

Brain matters

Image showing mean cortical thickness at age 79

Our studies use sophisticated brain imaging techniques that help us understand how brain structure and connectivity relate to the ageing of thinking skills.

Brain imaging

Hundreds of the Lothian Birth Cohort participants have taken part in an MRI brain scan. We use the scans to measure, for example, the thickness of the cortex, which is the ridged outer surface of the brain where neurons are located.

In general, as people get older their brains become smaller (as brain cells are lost) and certain areas of the cortex become thinner (redder in the image).

Brain ageing

Not everyone’s brain ages in the same way – some brains age better than others. People with better thinking skills in older age have brains that are:

  • larger in size,
  • thicker in grey matter,
  • and healthier in white matter connections.