Date of Award

January 2013

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


School of Public Health

First Advisor

Andrew DeWan

Second Advisor

Elena Grigorenko



There is a growing need to understand the role of genetics in determining innate ability and cognition. The Brain Derived Neurologic Factor (BDNF) gene codes for a nerve growth factor protein whose association with cognitive disorders makes it a plausible candidate gene for association with cognitive functioning. This study looks at the association between allelic variation in six SNPs in the BDNF gene and cognition.


Demographic and schooling information was gathered from school aged children in the Eastern Province of Zambia. The four subtests of the Zambian Achievement Test were used to capture academic achievement. Three subtests of the Universal Nonverbal Intelligence Test (cube design, symbolic memory, and spatial memory) were used to capture nonverbal reasoning ability and nonverbal memory. The outcome data was standardized using the procedure provided by UNIT technical manual and then normalized using a Box Cox transformation. Genotyping was done using TaqMan protocol. Linear regressions were used to look at the association between socioeconomic status, schooling, and allelic variation in the six selected SNPs with academic achievement and nonverbal IQ.


There was a statistically significant association (p<0.003) between each of the outcome variables and a composite socioeconomic status variable, grade completed, and current enrollment in school. A linear model showed a p-value approaching significance for an interaction between the rs12222288 SNP and schooling associated with the reading score outcome.


There was a marginally significant association between reading and a combination of schooling and the rs12222288 SNP but more research in future studies of this type is advised.


This is an Open Access Thesis.

Open Access

This Article is Open Access