Lasting Intelligence

Genetic differences influence how well people perform on IQ tests as children and senior citizens.

By | January 19, 2012

Dreamstime, Tomasz Parys


An intelligence study spanning nearly eight decades confirms that genetics partially determines how well an individual’s cognitive abilities last into old age. Led by psychologist Ian Deary of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, researchers performed intelligence tests and analyzed more than half a million common genetic variants in 2,000 Scots who had initially taken intelligence tests as 11-year olds in the 1930s and 40s. Reporting in Nature yesterday (January 18), they found that genetic variants accounted for approximately 25 percent of the differences in the participants’ cognitive stabilities. However, they have yet to determine the specific DNA sequence changes behind such stability.

These variants may only predispose an individual to long-lasting intelligence and may additionally depend on other factors,neuropsychologist at Columbia University Medical Center in New York Yaakov Stern, who was not involved in the study, told Nature. “There is still a lot of room for environmental influence.”

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