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Intelligence Largely Rooted in the Genes
Date:8/9/2011

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Aug. 9 (HealthDay News) -- New research indicates that up to half of human intelligence can be explained by genetics, but this involves small contributions by many different genes and not one overarching "smart" gene.

"We found that approximately half of individual differences ... in intelligence can be explained by genetics and across a great variety of genes," said Peter Visscher, co-author of a paper appearing in the Aug. 12 issue of the journal Molecular Psychiatry. "[And] this is likely to be an underestimate because we could only detect variation that is correlated with common DNA markers."

"There are huge numbers of genetic differences that make a difference to human intelligence," added study co-author Dr. Ian Deary, a professor of differential psychology at University of Edinburgh in Scotland. "It's like, along those huge stretches of DNA, there are many thousands of locations where there is a signal saying, 'some genetic difference near me makes a small contribution to people's thinking skills'."

Scientists have known that intelligence (or lack thereof) tends to run in families but it hasn't been clear how much of a role genetics plays. Nor has any single gene been strongly associated with "brains."

These authors did a genome-wide analysis on 3,511 unrelated adults which involved scanning data on about 550,000 single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs.

According to the Human Genome Project, SNPs are one-letter changes in a DNA sequence and account for 90 percent of all genetic variations among humans.

After testing participants' skill on two types of intelligence -- knowledge and problem-solving -- researchers determined that 40 percent to 50 percent of the variation came from differences in genetic differences.

"This tells us that both genetic and environmental factors explain individual differences in intelligence, and rou
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