Global study identifies hundreds of genes linked to intelligence

Global study identifies hundreds of genes linked to intelligence


Tuesday, 13 March, 2018

Professor Ian Deary and Dr David Hill (both centre for Cognitive Ageing & Cognitive Epidemiology) and colleagues from University of Southampton and Harvard have identified over 500 genes linked to intelligence in the largest genome-wide association studies (GWAS) study to date.

Researchers compared variation in DNA in more than 240,000 people from around the world to discover which genes are associated with intelligence, including data from the UK Biobank, a major genetic study into the role of nature and nurture in health and disease.

They identified 187 regions in the human genome that are linked to intelliegence, implicating 538 genes. Some of these genes are expressed in the synapse, a structure responsible for transmitting information from one neurone to the next, while others were involved in the generation of new neurones (neurogenesis) and myelination of neurones, pointing to possible biological differences underlying intelliegence.

Dr David Hill from the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology, who led the research, said: “Our study identified a large number of genes linked to intelligence.  Importantly, we were also able to identify some of the biological processes that genetic variation appears to influence to produce such differences in intelligence, and we were also able to predict intelligence in another group using only their DNA.”

The study’s principal investigator, Professor Ian Deary 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.”