Hunting down the specific gene, or set of genes, that comprise our memory has proven to be as elusive as tracking down the Lock Ness monster. Researchers have been trying for decades to target the “intelligence genes” in order to find out if intelligence is inherited, or a result of the environment. They also believe locating these genes will aid them in the discovery of how to cure Alzheimer’s disease and other mind-eating disorders. A

A long-standing belief has been that fewer than six genes comprise the “intelligence genes,” but that theory has been shot out of the water recently with a study out of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, where they found that the number of IQ genes total at least 1,000 or more.

From the study, researchers from around the world worked together and came up with the same conclusion – that there are many genes that play a role in intelligence, but their roles have not been defined, nor have the scientists been able to isolate which genes they are.

“It’s been kind of a shock to the system that it hasn’t worked,” said psychologist Eric Turkheimer at the University of Virginia, who had no role in the recent study, but has worked in others of the same kind. “We can’t find the effects of any individual genes that are large enough to seem worth worrying about.” What they do know for sure, from working with twins and adopted children, is that genes hold a significant role in IQ scores, and their influence appears to grow from childhood on. They have also come to realize that there may not be only one gene, or a cluster of them, that have a major role in intelligence, but rather a large group of genes that individually have a small influence.

A report issued online in August in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, revealed that a new DNA study has concluded pretty much the same thing, that many genes working together shape intelligence, similar to taking individual pieces of an orchestra and blending their sounds so that, without a vocalist it is difficult to decipher the contribution of each individual piece.

The other consideration in the nature vs. nurture discussion is of course – environment. The fact is, they both have a hand in intelligence; it’s the degree that is in question. They don’t act alone, and our experiences play a part in how we learn, and how much. Example: A child with interactive parents, surrounded by books and educational toys, has a much better chance of receiving higher IQ scores on standardized tests than a child in the ghetto who lives with a junkie parent. In no way does this indicate that the child growing up in a non-supportive and nurturing environment has a smaller brain or potential, but simply that being surrounded by a positive environment that encourages learning gives a child a better advantage to comprehend the vocabulary words and instructions of a standardized test structure.

Robert Plomin of the Institute of Psychiatry in London, who has been studying intelligence genes for over 15 years but did not participate in the latest study, wasn’t at all surprised by the results. “We’ve got a century of twin and adoption studies, such as those comparing twins reared in different families, that support the notion that about half of IQ differences come from DNA,” he said.

Although researchers have not been able to identify any genes that affected IQ, they were able to find genetic influence that “accounts for at least 40%-50% of the differences on intelligence test scores. Their conclusion was that our overall IQ comes from a variety of scattered genetic genes that each provides some small influence.

This is Ron White, two-time USA Memory Champion, bringing you this information on IQ.



ABC News – Specific IQ Genes Still Elusive, Latest Hunt Finds by Alicia Chang and Malcolm Ritter: