The memory and thinking skills of people appear to be rather fragile in old age. Well, a new study exhibits that a gene variant could aid in shielding the memory and thinking sills of elderly people.

For the study, experts tracked around 2,858 African-American and Caucasian people between the ages of 70 and 79 for roughly eight years. Participants’ DNA was examined for the catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) gene, a gene seemingly shown to affect thinking abilities. The allelic variants linked to this gene are said to be the Val and Met variants.

Study author Alexandra Fiocco, PhD, with the University of California, San Francisco, commented, “This is the first study to identify a protective relationship between this gene variant and cognitive function.”

Apparently, the group also received two kinds of thinking tests. One test presumably gauged skills like language, concentration and memory. The other test apparently calculated response time, attention and judging sights and objects.

It was seen that the Met variant of the COMT gene was supposedly connected to a bigger drop in thinking capability over the years, while the Val variant appeared to encompass a defensive effect on thinking skills, with lower declines over the years. In Caucasians, those with the Val variant apparently scored 33 percent better in due course as compared to those without the variant. Among African-Americans, people with the Val allele gene variant seemingly scored 45 percent better eventually as opposed to those who did not have the variant.

Fiocco remarked, “This finding is interesting because in younger people, the Val genotype has been shown to have a detrimental effect. But in our study of older people, the reverse was true. Finding connections between this gene, its variants and cognitive function may help scientists find new treatments for the prevention of cognitive decline.”

Fiocco added, nevertheless, that the outcomes need to be duplicated by others before the field can be sure that the Met variant of the COMT gene seemingly plays a function in late life cognitive decline.

The study was published in the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.