A group of British researchers discovered what may be a breakthrough in understanding how human intelligence is developed and perhaps manipulated. Clusters of so-called intelligence genes were identified and these may possibly unlock ways to boost mental ability.

Experts have long believed that intelligence is inherited. Studies show that about 75 percent of IQ is rooted from a person's genetics and the remaining percentage comes from environmental factors and social relationships. However, no one has ever been successful in identifying the exact gene or genes that can ultimately be credited for good memory, processing pace, attention and reasoning skills.

The Study

To determine the gene or genes responsible for intelligence, researchers from Imperial College London studied brain samples from 100 mouse subjects and 122 humans. The researchers were also able to obtain 102 preserved whole brains from deceased humans.

The team also checked data from 6,732 participants in the "Generation Scotland" family health study, which monitors the life history of volunteers. The study is repeated in 1,003 healthy individuals who volunteered for another study called "Lothian Birth Control 1936." The researchers particularly looked at indicators of genetic links between neurodevelopmental impairments or memory and understanding.

The studies evaluated different cognitive skills and incorporated the findings with genetic data provided by two groups: healthy volunteers who took IQ tests and patients diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and other intellectual disabilities. The researchers also included individuals who have already undergone neurosurgery secondary to epilepsy.

The team then conducted computational analyses and comparisons to see what information can be collated from the analytic strategies used.

The researchers found that the genes that had an effect on the intelligence and ability of healthy individuals were the very same genes that disturbed cognition and caused epilepsy when altered.

Intelligence Genes

The two networks of genes identified by the researchers are called M1 and M3. These networks are said to play a role in the occurrence of neurodevelopmental disorders such as schizophrenia, autism spectrum disorder and epilepsy. The functions of the two networks do not overlap and the actual role of each has not yet been fully established.

"This research highlights some of the genes involved in human intelligence and how they interact with each other," said Michael Johnson from Imperial College London.

Intelligence, What Is It, Really?

Johnson said intelligence is a compound measure of diverse cognitive abilities and the manner in which it is distributed in the population. Intelligence does not actually measure anything, but it is indeed measurable.

Johnson further compared intelligence with a game of football, which is comprised of players with different positions. The trait is governed by large groups of entities working together.

At present, the experts have already identified some players in the team. The next step is to determine how they work together, who the key players are and, ultimately, what game is being played.

Help For Neurodevelopmental Diseases

Administering medicines and other substances such as coffee to improve cognitive ability is something conventional. The key is to comprehend the pathways that are associated with cognitive health and disease so that people with impairments may be helped.

Ultimately, the authors hope to provide new information to experts so better treatments for neurodevelopmental diseases may be developed and the disturbances associated with such conditions may be reduced.

The study was published in the journal Nature.

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