How much a person’s intelligence is governed by nature or nurture has been debated throughout the ages. A new piece of research has thrown some interesting evidence into the mix, identifying over 500 genes that appear to be linked to sharp intelligence.
The research is the largest study looking at how genes and intelligence are linked to date. Using the heaps of data gathered by the UK Biobank, scientists at the University of Edinburgh, the University of Southampton, and Harvard University compared DNA variants in over 248,000 people from across the world.
As they explain in the Nature journal Molecular Psychiatry, they managed to find 538 genes that play a role in intellectual ability, along with 187 regions in the human genome that are linked to cognitive skills.
In theory, this means that scientists could get an insight into your IQ just by analyzing your spit in a pot. As part of this new study, the researchers tested out this idea and managed to predict differences in intelligence of a group of individuals using their DNA alone.
“Our study identified a large number of genes linked to intelligence," Dr David Hill, from the University of Edinburgh's Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology, said in a statement. "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.”
That said, the impact of genetics or environment on a person’s intelligence remains as hazy as ever. Their study was only able to predict 7 percent of the intelligence differences between those people, which is not totally definitive.
“We know that environments and genes both contribute to the differences we observe in people’s intelligence," Professor Ian Deary, Principal Investigator, added. "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.”
So, don’t be too disheartened by the suggestion that some aspects of intelligence could be programmed into your DNA. Just as other scientific studies have suggested, it appears that the brilliance of your brain is also influenced by a cocktail of external influences, from your upbringing and life experiences, to even your health.