Association of CAG Repeat Length in the Huntington Gene With Cognitive Performance in Young Adults

Objective

To investigate the relationships between CAG repeat length in the huntingtin gene and cognitive performance in participants above and below the disease threshold for Huntington disease (HD), we performed a cross-sectional analysis of the Enroll-HD database.

Methods

We analyzed data from young, developing adults (≤30 years of age) without a history of depression, apathy, or cognitive deficits. We included participants with and without the gene expansion (CAG ≥36) for HD. All participants had to have a Total Functional Capacity Score of 13, a diagnostic confidence level of zero, and a total motor score of 28.6 years from their predicted motor onset. We performed regression analyses to investigate the nonlinear relationship between CAG repeat length and various cognitive measures controlling for age, sex, and education level.

Results

There were significant positive relationships between CAG repeat length and the Symbol Digit Modalities, Stroop Color Naming, and Stroop Interference test scores. There were significant negative relationships between CAG repeat length and scores on Parts A and B of the Trails Making Test (p < 0.05), indicating that longer CAG repeat lengths were associated with better performance.

Discussion

An increasing number of CAG repeats in the huntingtin gene below disease threshold and low pathologic CAG ranges were associated with some improvements in cognitive performance. These findings outline the relationship between CAG repeats within the huntingtin gene and cognitive development.

Classification of Evidence

This study provides Class IV evidence that CAG repeat length is positively associated with cognitive function across a spectrum of CAG repeat lengths.

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