Biomarkers of kidney function and cognitive ability: A Mendelian randomization study

Erin L. Richard, Linda K. McEvoy, Steven Y. Cao, Eyal Oren, John E. Alcaraz, Andrea Z. LaCroix, Rany M. Salem

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background: Estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR), albuminuria and serum uric acid (SUA) are markers of kidney function that have been associated with cognitive ability. However, whether these associations are causal is unclear. Methods: We performed one-sample Mendelian randomization (MR) to estimate the effects of kidney function markers on cognitive performance using data from the UK Biobank. Polygenic scores for SUA, urine albumin to creatinine ratio (ACR), estimated glomerular filtration rate based on serum creatinine (eGFRcre) and serum cystatin C (eGFRcys) were used as instrumental variables, and cognitive function outcomes included tests of verbal-numeric reasoning, reaction time, visual memory, and numeric memory. Results: We found no evidence of a causal effect of genetically determined SUA, eGFRcre or eGFRcys on cognitive function outcomes. There was no association between a polygenic score for ACR and verbal-numeric reasoning or numeric memory. However, there was suggestive evidence of a relationship between genetically increased ACR and slower reaction time and worse visual memory. ACR was no longer significantly associated with visual memory in analyses using an unweighted polygenic score and in analyses stratified by sex and age category. Pleiotropy adjusted estimates were directionally consistent with those of the principal analysis but overlapped with the null. Conclusions: This MR study does not support causal effects of SUA, eGFRcre or eGFRcys on cognitive performance. Genetically increased ACR was associated with slower processing speed and visual memory, but results need confirmation in independent samples.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number118071
JournalJournal of the Neurological Sciences
StatePublished - Nov 15 2021


  • Albuminuria
  • Cognition
  • Glomerular filtration rate
  • Mendelian randomization
  • Uric acid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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