ON THIS PAGE
- Read more about the intelligence genes, and how the study was conducted.
- The recent book A TROUBLESOME INHERITANCE, by Nicholas Wade, unleashed a storm of criticism from liberal academics for presenting facts that link race, genes and intelligence.
- How the study of EPIGENETICS shows the influence of environment and emotions on a person's gene expression within his lifetime. These genetic changes can then be passed on to his or her children.
HOW THE STUDY WAS CONDUCTED:
- In the study, the international team of researchers looked at samples of human brain from patients who had undergone neurosurgery for epilepsy.
- The investigators analysed thousands of genes expressed in the human brain, and then combined these results with genetic information from healthy people who had undergone IQ tests.
- They also studied the genetic information from people with neurological disorders such as autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disability.
- Using computer models, they were able to identify the gene networks responsible for healthy human cognitive abilities.
- Remarkably, they found that some of the same genes that influence human intelligence in healthy people were also the same genes that cause impaired cognitive ability and epilepsy when mutated.
- Genes which make people intelligent have been discovered and scientists believe they could be manipulated to boost brain power.
- Report author Professor Robert Plomin believes that children should be genetically screened at the age of four so that an individualised curriculum could be tailored to their needs.
- It's nature over nurture. Intelligence is inherited.
Researchers have believed for some time that intellect is inherited with studies suggesting that up to 75 per cent of IQ is genetic, and the rest down to environmental factors such as schooling and friendship groups.
But until now, nobody has been able to pin-point exactly which genes are responsible for better memory, attention, processing speed or reasoning skills.
Now Imperial College London has found that two networks of genes determine whether people are intelligent or not-so-bright.
They liken the gene network to a football team. When all the players are in the right positions, the brain appears to function optimally, leading to clarity of thought and what we think of as quickness or cleverness.
However when the genes are mutated or in the wrong order, it can lead to dullness of thinking, or even serious cognitive impairments.
Scientists believe that there must be a ‘master switch’ regulating the networks and if they could find it, they could ‘switch on’ intelligence for everyone.
“We know that genetics plays a major role in intelligence but until now haven’t known which genes are relevant,” said Dr Michael Johnson, lead author of the study from the Department of Medicine at Imperial College.
“This research highlights some of genes involved in human intelligence, and how they interact with each other.
“What’s exciting about this is that the genes we have found are likely to share a common regulation, which means that potentially we can manipulate a whole set of genes whose activity is linked to human intelligence.
“Our research suggests that it might be possible to work with these genes to modify intelligence, but that is only a theoretical possibility at the moment – we have just taken a first step along that road.”
In the study, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, the team of researchers looked at samples of human brain from patients who had undergone neurosurgery for epilepsy.
They analysed thousands of genes expressed in the human brain, and then combined the results with genetic information from healthy people who had undergone IQ tests and from people with neurological disorders such as autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disability.
They conducted various computational analyses and comparisons in order to identify the gene networks influencing healthy human cognitive abilities.
Remarkably, they found that some of the same genes that influence human intelligence in healthy people were also the same genes that cause impaired cognitive ability and epilepsy when mutated, networks which they called M1 and M3.
Dr Johnson added: “Traits such intelligence are governed by large groups of genes working together – like a football team made up of players in different positions.
“We used computer analysis to identify the genes in the human brain that work together to influence our cognitive ability to make new memories or sensible decisions when faced with lots of complex information.
“We found that some of these genes overlap with those that cause severe childhood onset epilepsy or intellectual disability.
“This study shows how we can use large genomic datasets to uncover new pathways for human brain function in both health and disease. Eventually, we hope that this sort of analysis will provide new insights into better treatments for neurodevelopmental diseases such as epilepsy, and ameliorate or treat the cognitive impairments associated with these devastating diseases.”
Earlier this year a team at King’s College London discovered that up to 65 per cent of the difference in pupil’s GCSE grades was down to genetics, after analysing genetic data fro, 12,500 twins.
They found that all exam results were highly heritable, demonstrating that genes explain a larger proportion of the differences between children, between 54 and 65 per cent.
Previously it was thought that intelligence was determined by the formation of the cerebral cortex, the outermost layer of the human brain, also known as ‘grey matter.’
Grey matter (see illustration) plays a key role in memory, attention, perceptual awareness, thought and language.
In contrast shared environmental factors such as home and school environment contributed between 14 and 21 per cent. The rest was made up by individual external influences such as diseases or friends.
Report author Professor Robert Plomin believes that children should be genetically screened at the age of four so that an individualised curriculum could be tailored to their needs.
“Understanding the specific genetic and environmental factors influencing individual differences in educational achievement - and the complex interplay between them - could help educationalists develop effective personalised learning programmes, to help every child reach their potential by the end of compulsory education,” he said.
However other genetics experts have warned that even having intelligence gene networks does not guarantee success.
Darren Griffin, Professor of Genetics at the University of Kent, said: “Genetics is the science of inheritance, not pre-determinism, and there is no substitute for hard work and application.”
Because populations stayed in place for thousands of years, substantially isolated from one another, evolution has proceeded independently on each continent, giving rise to the various races of humankind.
The book explores the possibility that recent human evolution has included changes in social behaviour, and hence in the nature of human societies.
He points to findings that middle class social traits - thrift, literacy, nonviolence - have been slowly but surely inculcated genetically within agrarian populations, a process that culminated in the Industrial Revolution and the emergence of modern societies.
The notable achievements of Jewish communities are explored as another possible example of human evolution within the historical period.
Rejecting unequivocally the notion of racial superiority, A Troublesome Inheritance argues that the evolution of the human races holds information critical to the understanding of human societies and history, and that the public interest is best served by pursuing the scientific truth without fear.
Nicholas Wade received a BA in natural sciences from King's College, Cambridge.
He was the deputy editor of Nature magazine. He joined Science magazine in Washington as a reporter, and later moved to the New York Times, where he ahs been an editorial writer, concentrating on issues of science, environment and defense, a science reporter and the science editor.
He is now a freelance writer and reporter.
His previous books include Before the Dawn, a general survey of evolution in the last50,000 year, and The Faith Instinct, which reconstructs the evolution of religious behavior.
See also related data on:
- Jewish Recipients of the Kyoto Prize (24% of recipients)
- Jewish Recipients of the Wolf Foundation Prize (34% of recipients)
- Jewish Recipients of the US National Medal of Science (38% of recipients)
- Jewish Recipients of the Grande Médaille of the French Academy of Sciences (50% of recipients)
- Jews Elected to Foreign Membership in the British Royal Society, 1901-Present (27% of total, 37% of current Foreign Members)
- Jews Among the Creators of History's Greatest Lifesaving Medical & Scientific Advances (estimated 2.8 billion lives saved)
What is epigenetics?
Jewish culture, for example, by encouraging discussion, analysis, and exchange of opinions both socially and at religious seminaries, is thought to have contributed to a significant rise in the IQ of Jewish students. That, combined with other characteristics such as sobriety, the value of study, and solid family and community bonds, may have influenced the high Jewish IQ as well.
These genetic changes were then inherited by new generations. So that cultural environment may have been behind the extraordinary Jewish achievements in science, arts, and other fields of endeavor, particularly during the 20th century, when Jews were allowed to participate in academia and in other intellectual fields.
Emotional stress may bring on genetic changes that can be passed on to offspring