First Publication from PREVENT Dementia: China Collaboration

PREVENT Dementia has recently formed an exciting new partnership with the Sino-Britain Centre for Cognitive and Ageing Research at Southwest University in China (for more information see our recent article here). The aim of the PREVENT Dementia: China collaboration is to gather expertise, share knowledge and work together to develop truly global research solutions towards dementia prevention.

November brought a major milestone in the project with the first scientific article published since the collaboration was founded. The work, titled “Can Your DNA Influence Your Bet-Placing? The Impact of Cannabinoid Receptor 1 Gene on Gambling Tasks”, was based at the Sino-Britain Centre for Cognitive and Ageing Research and authored by Huihui Qin (senior graduate student), Dr. Jianmin Zeng (executive director of the centre), Dr Hong Chen (co-director of the centre), Dr Ling Deng (clinician at the local hospital) and Dr Li Su (brain imaging expert at the University of Cambridge, co-director of the centre at Southwest University China and key member of the PREVENT Dementia programme in the UK). The research looked to provide insights to answer a big question: “Are we placing a bet by ourselves or has our DNA already made the decision for us?”

The researchers used a combination of genetic analysis and experimental psychology to explore how variations in a particular gene, the cannabinoid receptor 1 gene, influenced individuals’ bet-placing behaviour. They found that when completing an experimental gambling task, participants who carry two copies of a particular variation of this gene placed significantly larger bets than those who carry only one copy.

This result is consistent with previous findings that individuals with such variations in this gene were more susceptible to drug addiction and risk-taking behaviour. This result suggests an answer to the big question: Our DNA did already make the decision of bet placing for us, to some degree.

To build on these initial results the team are planning further research to explore the findings along two main themes:

  1. To investigate how dementia-related genes affect decision making. As a first step, they have explored how risk- and reward- related gene variations influence decision making in the above-mentioned work. Based on that work, they will further explore how dementia-related genes affect decision making and how different brain regions and the connections between these regions are involved in this.
  2. To investigate how dementia-related genes affect performance on a range of other brain functions, such as thinking and memory. This will involve many tasks currently used in the PREVENT study such as the Stroop task, four mountains task and tests of implicit memory. In addition, they also want to explore the role that connections between specific brain regions play in the link between these genes and task performance.

In October of this year, members of the PREVENT Dementia team from the UK, Prof Craig Ritchie, Dr. Li Su, and Sarah Gregory, visited the Sino-Britain Centre for Cognitive and Ageing Research (see here). Following this visit both sides agreed to have closer collaboration in scientific research and ongoing exchange visits for students and researchers. We believe that working together in this way will make important contributions to further our understanding of brain ageing and dementia.

Watch this space for more exciting developments to come from the PREVENT Dementia: China collaboration!

Paper Citation

Qin, H., Zeng, J., Chen, H., Deng, L. and Su, L., 2018. Can your DNA influence your bet-placing? The impact of Cannabinoid Receptor 1 Gene on gambling tasks. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience12.

The full research publication is available for public access here.