Genes May Play Role in Educational Achievement, Study Finds

Medical Xpress, July 2, 2012

Researchers have identified genetic markers that may influence whether a person finishes high school and goes on to college, according to a national longitudinal study of thousands of young Americans. The study is in the July issue of Developmental Psychology, a publication of the American Psychological Association.

“Being able to show that specific genes are related in any way to academic achievement is a big step forward in understanding the developmental pathways among young people,” said the study’s lead author, Kevin Beaver, PhD, a professor at the College of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida State University.

The three genes identified in the study—DAT1, DRD2 and DRD4—have been linked to behaviors such as attention regulation, motivation, violence, cognitive skills and intelligence, according to the study. Previous research has explored the genetic underpinnings of intelligence but virtually none has examined genes that potentially contribute to educational attainment in community samples, said Beaver.

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The genes identified in this research are known as dopamine transporter and receptor genes. Every person has the genes DAT1, DRD2 and DRD4, but what is of interest are molecular differences within the genes, known as alleles, according to Beaver. Subjects who possessed certain alleles within these genes achieved the highest levels of education, according to the findings.

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Even though the genetic variants were found to be associated with educational levels, having a specific allele does not determine whether someone will graduate from high school or earn a college degree, according to Beaver. {snip}

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