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Intelligence and Genes

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 24 Feb 2013 | comments*Discuss
 
Intelligence Genes Genetics Magnetic

The search for 'intelligence genes' has been an enormous one that continues to fuel the work of many researchers and scientists around the world. A new study now shows that genes may actually play a bigger part in our intelligence than we ever imagined.

Using a Brain Scanner

The study is focused on the use of a new kind of special scanner, which suggests that our brains are wired in such a way that intelligence is inherited and the way our brains are wired connects up to how high an IQ we each have.

How Does it Work?

In the new study, it is thought that our genes are linked to intelligence in that they influence the ways in which our nerve fibres are protected. These fibres are covered and protected by myelin, which insulates the nerve fibres and has a fatty consistency. When the myelin covering is strong and robust, nerve impulses are far more rapid and efficient.

Building on Previous Research

We already knew that there were some parts of the brain that were inherited. These parts could then go on to influence the level of our IQ. For instance, the amount of grey matter was known to be linked up to intelligence. Grey matter is a part of the brain that functions in processing information.

Another area of research has been the white matter in the brain, which involves nerve fibres. These special fibres link the neurons in your brain that function to process information. We have known for some time that white matter is an inherited part of the brain.

Bringing Research Up-to-Date

In the most recent research, scientists in the United States looked at the brains of identical twins and fraternal twins using a newer type of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). While older MRI scans indicate the various tissues in the brain through detection of water that is present, the newer version of the MRI aims to measure water levels that actually diffuse through the brain's white matter.

Researchers liken it to taking a snapshot of a person's speed of thought! The new imaging is thought to pave the way for better insight into how our genes affect our intelligence. While the study was still a relatively small one, newer research will likely expand upon it and look at a larger sample of the population. In this way, we can confirm study findings and look to developing our knowledge of intelligence genes.

Results of the experiment showed greater similarity in identical twins versus fraternal ones. The integrity of the myelin in the brain was inherited in a number of the important areas known to influence intelligence. When tests were done on reasoning and general intelligence, it was found that the quality of the myelin from specific parts of the brain correlated with how well the participants did on the tests.

Developing Your Intelligence

While it's helpful to determine how intelligence can be inherited in terms of our genes, it's best to focus on how you can take action today to improve your intelligence. We can't exactly choose our parents and genetic pool, so it's best to look at the aspects of intelligence that you can control.

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