Researchers Identify 40 New Genes Linked to Intelligence

Genes are responsible for around half of the IQ differences in the population.

A new study has identified 40 genes linked to intelligence. However, scientists emphasize that intelligence isn’t entirely due to genetics.


The Study 

A new study has identified 40 genes that give researchers the largest insight into the biology underpinning human cognitive skills.

We want to understand how the brain works and learn what are the biological underpinnings of intelligence,” said the lead scientist, Professor Danielle Posthuma from the University of Amsterdam.

Posthuma and his colleagues looked at 13 different groups of people, including 60,000 adults and 20,000 children of European heritage. They found 52 genes, with 40 that were “predominantly switched on in the brain.” These same genes were also linked to “a larger head circumference, better educational attainment, longer lifespans and autism.”

Previous Studies on Intelligence 

According to previous twin studies, genes are responsible for around half of the IQ differences in the population. The rest is due to environmental factors, including nutrition, womb conditions, pollution and the social environment.

Scientists have regularly stressed that genes do not entirely dictate intelligence. Posthuma said: “Genes do not determine everything for intelligence. There are so many other factors that effect how well someone does on an IQ test.” Scientists believe that there may be thousands of genes that underpin human intelligence- with the vast majority yet to be discovered.  All genes discovered in the study only explain around 5% of the variation in human intelligence.

“There is always the question of designer babies and can we use this knowledge to improve intelligence,” Posthuma said. “These are valid questions, but it’s very far from where we are now. You certainly wouldn’t be able to design a baby based on the current knowledge.”

Many scientists also believe that IQ tests are not even a proper measure of intelligence. Therefore our current methods in assessing the origins of intelligence remain questionable.