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The University of Southampton

Hundreds of genes linked to intelligence

Published: 14 March 2018
Genes linked to intelligence
Hundreds of genes linked to intelligence

More than 500 genes linked to intelligence have been identified in the largest study of its kind, carried out by the Universities of Southampton and Edinburgh, and Harvard University.

Scientists compared variation in DNA in more than 240,000 people from around the world, to discover which genes are associated with intelligence.

They identified 538 genes that play a role in intellectual ability and found 187 regions in the human genome that are linked to thinking skills.

Scientists say the study sheds new light on the biological building blocks of people’s differences in intelligence.

Published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, the study showed that genes found to be linked to intelligence also appeared to influence other biological processes while some genes linked to intellectual ability are also associated with living longer.

Catherine Gale, Professor of Cognitive Epidemiology at the University of Southampton, who was involved in the research, said: “This study shows that intelligence is influenced by multiple genes and suggests that one explanation for the well-established link between intelligence and health is that some of the same genes that influence intelligence also influence health.”  

The research team also found that genes linked with problem solving powers were associated with the process by which neurons carry signals from one place to another in the brain.

Using these genetic discoveries, scientists next predicted seven per cent of intelligence differences in an independent group of individuals using their DNA alone.  

Professor Ian Deary, Principal Investigator Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, said: “We know that environments and genes both contribute to the differences we observe in people’s intelligence. This study adds to what we know about which genes influence intelligence, and suggests that health and intelligence are related in part because some of the same genes influence them.”

The study used data from the UK Biobank, a major genetic study into the role of nature and nurture in health and disease.


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