Genetic and Environmental Influences on Semantic Verbal Fluency Across Midlife and Later Life

Daniel E Gustavson*, Matthew S Panizzon, William S Kremen, Chandra A Reynolds, Shandell Pahlen, Marianne Nygaard, Mette Wod, Vibeke S Catts, Teresa Lee, Margaret Gatz, Carol E Franz, IGEMS consortium

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Despite the relevance of semantic fluency measures to risk for dementia and psychiatric disorders, little is known about their genetic and environmental architecture in mid-to-late life. Participants represent 21,684 middle-aged and older adult twins (M = 60.84 years, SD = 11.21; Range 40-89) from six studies from three countries participating in the Interplay of Genes and Environment across Multiple Studies (IGEMS) consortium. All completed the same measure of semantic fluency (naming animals in 60 seconds). Results revealed small-to-moderate phenotypic associations with age and education, with education more strongly and positively associated with fluency performance in females than males. Heritability and environmental influences did not vary by age. Environmental variance was smaller with higher levels of education, but this effect was observed only in males. This is the largest study to examine the genetic and environmental architecture of semantic fluency, and the first to demonstrate that environmental influences vary based on levels of education.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBehavior Genetics
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)99-109
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


  • Aging
  • Gene-by-environment interaction
  • Heritability
  • Twin study
  • Verbal fluency


Dive into the research topics of 'Genetic and Environmental Influences on Semantic Verbal Fluency Across Midlife and Later Life'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this