Large study uncovers genes linked to intelligence

Genes controlling how our nervous system develops are linked to intelligence. Credit: Evgeny Atamanenko

Exactly what constitutes intelligence, in addition to to what extent This specific is actually genetic, are some of the most controversial questions in science. although currently a brand-new study of nearly 80,000 people, published in Nature Genetics, has managed to identify several genes of which seem to be involved in intelligence.


According to a dictionary definition, intelligence is actually “the ability to learn, understand or deal with brand-new situations” or “the ability to apply knowledge to manipulate one’s environment or to think abstractly”.

This specific is actually obviously quite broad. Indeed, even animals display several different forms of intelligence, typically critical for survival. These range via reaching or gathering sources of food in addition to escaping predators to the sharing of duties within a group (such as in ant communities). Elephants or monkeys also possess forms of empathy in addition to care, which strengthen their relationships in addition to chances to survive.

Human intelligence started off out as “reactive”, enabling us to find solutions to the challenges of nature. although This specific later became “proactive”, in order of which we could use the resources of nature to develop preventive measures aimed at solving problems. Ultimately, what makes human intelligence different via of which of some other animals is actually our ability to shape the environment, for example through farming. This specific became possible as we developed communities in addition to started off delegating tasks on the basis of talents. When the acute problem of survival was controlled, we could dedicate our intelligence to the development of arts or some other higher skills.

There are many factors of which enable us to shape in addition to nurture our intelligence – ranging via access to resources in addition to information to skills acquired through experience in addition to repetition. although, like with most human traits, there is actually also a genetic basis.

The experiment

The method used to measure intelligence from the brand-new study was the so-called “g-factor” – a measure of analytical intelligence. Although This specific might appear reductive to catalogue all types of intelligence through an individual test, the g-factor is actually often used in scientific research as being among the most unbiased methods. The authors looked at such scores in 78,000 people of European descent to search for genetic factors in addition to genes of which potentially influence human intelligence.

They carried out a genome-wide association study (GWAS). This specific assesses connections between a trait in addition to a multitude of DNA markers called single-nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs, which might determine an individual’s likelihood to develop a specific trait. The test enabled the researchers to identify 336 significant SNPs.

Generally, the vast majority of significant SNPs of which result in This specific way fall in non-coding regions of the DNA. In some other words, they indicate portions of the DNA of which may regulate gene expression even though the actual regulated gene is actually unknown. This specific makes the SNPs via GWAS hard to interpret. So the authors then complemented their analysis which has a so called genome-wide gene association analysis (or GWGAS), which calculates the effect of multiple SNPs within genes in addition to can identify actual associated genes. They then combined both kinds of study to strengthen their confidence in naming the genes associated with intelligence.

This specific work led to isolating 52 candidate genes linked to intelligence. Although 12 of these had been previously associated with “intelligence”, the study needs to be replicated in future studies.

What do we gather?

The researchers discovered of which the genes of which were the strongest linked to intelligence are ones involved in pathways of which play a part from the regulation of the nervous system’s development in addition to apoptosis (a normal form of cell death of which is actually needed in development). The most significant SNP was found within FOXO3, a gene involved in insulin signalling of which might trigger apoptosis. The strongest associated gene was CSE1L, a gene involved in apoptosis in addition to cell proliferation.

Does This specific all mean of which intelligence in humans depends on the molecular mechanisms of which support the development in addition to preservation of the nervous system throughout an person’s lifespan? This specific’s possible.

in addition to is actually This specific possible to explain intelligence through genetics? This specific paper suggests This specific is actually. Nevertheless, This specific might be warranted to consider of which intelligence is actually a very complex trait in addition to even if genetics did play a role, environmental factors such as education, healthy living, access to higher education, exposure to stimulating circumstances or environments might play an equally or even stronger role in nurturing in addition to shaping intelligence.

This specific is actually also worth considering of which the meaning of “intelligence” rather falls within a grey area. There might be different types of intelligence or even intelligence might be interpreted differently: in which category could for example a genius physicist – unable to remember their way home (Albert Einstein) – fall? Selective intelligence? Mozart nearly failed his admission tests to Philharmonic Academy in Bologna because his genius was too wide in addition to innovative to be assessed by rigid tests. is actually of which another form of selective intelligence? in addition to if so, what’s the genetic basis of This specific kind of intelligence?

Studies like This specific are extremely interesting in addition to they do show we are starting to scratch the surface of what the biological basis of intelligence actually is actually.


Explore further:
‘Smart genes’ account for 20% of intelligence: study

More information:
nature.com/articles/doi:10.1038/ng.3869

Journal reference:
Nature Genetics

Provided by:
The Conversation

Large study uncovers genes linked to intelligence

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