New Genes for Intelligence Found

WHAT IT IS

  • Current scientific findings have revealed 52 genes that contribute to a person’s intelligence. 40 of which have been newly discovered.
  • Geneticist Danielle Posthuma used a study called GWAS (Genome-Wide Association Study) which combined 13 past intelligence studies and a dataset of 78,000 individuals to look for any associations between human genomes and IQ.

WHY IT MATTERS

The recently found genes provide further support for the argument that intelligence is inherited. The new findings also give insight on how the brain functions and neuron development, as well as a deeper look into the biology behind logical problem solving.

  • THE AMBITIOUS – “Born with smarts”

    • Looking on the bright side:   While the genes did find a connection between intelligence and Autism, this evidence can provide new discoveries to the condition’s origins.
    • Quality over quantity:   Dr. Posthuma suggests that it could be a pattern of genetic variants, rather than the amount, to determine intelligence.
    • Step for mankind:   The intelligence genes were found to be involved in the nervous system and for the first time, can help researchers understand how intelligence works biologically.
  • THE CAUTIOUS – “Acquire your smarts”

    • Too small:   According to the study, the intelligence genes only account for 5% of the variation of IQ scores among the dataset.
    • Taking in your surroundings:   Intelligence may be inherited to an extent, but environmental factors play a part, as Dr. Stuart J. Ritchie makes an analogy between intelligence and vision.
    • The downside:   The same intelligence genes also carry an increased risk of Alzheimer’s, depression, and Autism.

WHERE WE ARE NOW

  • While the research marks a significant step in figuring out the biological underpinnings of the brain, there are some who worry that the allure of these findings could lead to unethical genetic engineering.
  • The complex nature of the brain continues to make manipulating genes to increase intelligence very difficult, as many genes perform more than one function.

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT

  • Learn more about HMGA2 (one of the intelligence genes) here.
  • What percentage of intelligence is genetic?
  • What does this mean for genetic engineering?
  • How will this impact education?