The hundreds of genes which are responsible for intelligence have been identified, opening the door to the possibility of improving people's intellect. Scientists have mapped these genes on human DNA for the first time, and believe that with more research they may be able to manipulate them.
The researchers found that the genes are likely to be controllable all at once. They suggest this means they may be able to modify the genes to increase someone's cognitive function, and it will also help with research to find new treatments for neurological diseases.
The genes are comprised of two gene clusters, known as M1 and M3. The researchers from Imperial College London found that they are responsible for features including memory, attention-span, processing speed and even reasoning.
"We know that genetics plays a major role in intelligence but until now haven't known which genes are relevant," said Michael Johnson, lead author of the study. "This research highlights some of genes involved in human intelligence, and how they interact with each other."
The study published in Nature Neuroscience, used a total of 6,817 samples to find their results, comprising of patients undergoing neurosurgery for epilepsy, and healthy people who had just taken IQ tests. They also used information from people suffering from neurological disorders.
It was found that the genes are likely to be controlled by "master regulator switches" – one genetic switch which governs all of the genes, similar to an electrical box in homes. The scientists found that some genes which cause epilepsy and impaired cognitive ability also influence human intellect in healthy people. Previous studies have shown that around 75% of IQ comes from our genes.
"We used computer analysis to identify the genes in the human brain that work together to influence our cognitive ability," said Johnson. "We found that some of these genes overlap with those that cause severe childhood onset epilepsy or intellectual disability. This study shows how we can use large genomic datasets to uncover new pathways for human brain function in both health and disease."
With that knowledge, the researchers believe it is possible to provide better or new treatments for neurological disorders.