Genetic Contributions to Stability and Change in Intelligence from Childhood to Old Age

Ian J. Deary et al., Nature, January 18, 2012

Abstract

Understanding the determinants of healthy mental ageing is a priority for society today12. So far, we know that intelligence differences show high stability from childhood to old age34 and there are estimates of the genetic contribution to intelligence at different ages56. However, attempts to discover whether genetic causes contribute to differences in cognitive ageing have been relatively uninformative78910. Here we provide an estimate of the genetic and environmental contributions to stability and change in intelligence across most of the human lifetime. We used genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) data from 1,940 unrelated individuals whose intelligence was measured in childhood (age 11 years) and again in old age (age 65, 70 or 79 years)1112. We use a statistical method that allows genetic (co)variance to be estimated from SNP data on unrelated individuals1314151617. We estimate that causal genetic variants in linkage disequilibrium with common SNPs account for 0.24 of the variation in cognitive ability change from childhood to old age. Using bivariate analysis, we estimate a genetic correlation between intelligence at age 11 years and in old age of 0.62. These estimates, derived from rarely available data on lifetime cognitive measures, warrant the search for genetic causes of cognitive stability and change.

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  • Drew

    Technology may let us recapture for purposes of research some of the notions cultivated
    by our ancestors about the reality of “Mind” and the sense in which there is a “Mind”
    uniting a reasonably harmonious large family living under a single roof or a reasonably
    harmonious and productive work crew.    There is every reason to believe that elderly
    people who might test out equally able (if steadily eroding ) would reveal significant
    differences as between one living largely isolated and another living in a close-knit group
    of similarly situated persons.  It’s pretty common sense to assume a person’s own functioning can be potentiated or diminished significantly  by the nature of close knit relationships devoted to a generally common purpose.  Clearly, put to productive purposes, the world of tweets, twitters, hands-free phone conversations, micro recorders, etc., can potentiate greatly individual performance by knitting closely the members of a purposeful group .  At an elevated level, this question pertains to the monumental work of scientists like J. P. Rushton or Richard Lynn who have revealed a lot about varied average IQ levels of nations and social groupings.   The question arises in the face of average IQ differences as to how two societies sharing a close average, might vary a lot in overall productivity, etc., as a result of shared incentives/ disincentives/ shared observances.     Obvious national assets would be a reasonable hospitality toward social hierarchy,  deference in social relationships by those of lower status toward those of higher status, the nurturing of a rather wide range of shared expectations and observances, the violation of which would  engender reasonable social stigma, etc.  

  • Anonymous

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