Genetic influences on free and cued recall in long-term memory tasks

Heather E. Volk, Kathleen B. McDermott, Henry L. Roediger, Richard D. Todd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Long-term memory (LTM) problems are associated with many psychiatric and neurological illnesses and are commonly measured using free and cued recall tasks. Although LTM has been linked with biologic mechanisms, the etiology of distinct LTM tasks is unknown. We studied LTM in 95 healthy female twin pairs identified through birth records in the state of Missouri. Performance on tasks of free recall of unrelated words, free and cued recall of categorized words, and the vocabulary section of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS-R) were examined using structural equation modeling. Additive genetic and unique environmental factors influenced LTM and intelligence. Free recall of unrelated and categorized words, and cued recall of categorized words, were moderately heritable (55%, 38%, and 37%). WAIS-R vocabulary score was highly heritable (77%). Controlling for verbal intelligence in multivariate analyses of recall, two components of genetic influence on LTM were found; one for all three recall scores and one for free and cued categorized word recall. Recall of unrelated and categorized words is influenced by different genetic and environmental factors indicating heterogeneity in LTM. Verbal intelligence is etiologically different from LTM indicating that these two abilities utilize different brain functions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)623-631
Number of pages9
JournalTwin Research and Human Genetics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Genetics(clinical)


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