Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Dozens of Genes Linked to Intelligence Identified by Scientists
Scientists who identified 52 genes associated with human intelligence say their findings could help improve understanding of our thinking abilities and lead to improved treatment of learning disorders.
The findings, made by analyzing the DNA of 80,000 people of European descent, appear in the journal Nature Genetics.
The team of American and European researchers said these genes do not determine intelligence. Combined, the genes account for a small amount of the variation in intelligence test scores, with each gene affecting I.Q. by only a small fraction of a point, The New York Times reported.
It’s likely there are thousands more genes that play a role in intelligence, according to the scientists, who added that environment also has a major impact on intelligence.
However, experts say identification of these 52 genes could lead to new experiments into the biological roots of intelligence, and may even help identify the best methods of helping children who are struggling to learn, The New York Times reported.
The study authors said they focused on people of European descent because it improved their chances of pinpointing common genetic variants associated with intelligence. But different genetic variants are important in different groups of people, and that may be the case with intelligence.
“If you try to predict height using the genes we’ve identified in Europeans in Africans, you’d predict all Africans are five inches shorter than Europeans, which isn’t true,” study senior author Danielle Posthuma, a geneticist at Vrije University Amsterdam in the Netherlands, told The Times.
It’s unclear what the 52 genes actually do. Four are known to control the development of cells, and three do a variety. of things inside neurons.
Experiments on brain cells may help shed light on what makes these genes special. For example, one possibility is to test cells from people with variants that predict high and low intelligence.
The cells could be prompted to develop into neurons, leading to the creation of neuron clusters — or “mini-brains” — that could be tested to determine if their genetic differences make them behave differently, The Times reported.