July 08, 2014

Generalist Genes influence both reading and math ability

Nature Communications 5, Article number: 4204 doi:10.1038/ncomms5204

The correlation between reading and mathematics ability at age twelve has a substantial genetic component

Oliver S. P. Davis

Dissecting how genetic and environmental influences impact on learning is helpful for maximizing numeracy and literacy. Here we show, using twin and genome-wide analysis, that there is a substantial genetic component to children’s ability in reading and mathematics, and estimate that around one half of the observed correlation in these traits is due to shared genetic effects (so-called Generalist Genes). Thus, our results highlight the potential role of the learning environment in contributing to differences in a child’s cognitive abilities at age twelve.



Romulus the I2a L233+ Proto Balto-Slav, layer of Corded Ware Women said...

I read the study and it seems that they failed to find any correlation between any SNPs and reading/mathematical ability. They claim that the data implies a correlation although they were unable to find one. Looks like more support for Nurture in the Nature vs. Nurture argument.

Fanty said...


Its just that human science doesnt know anything about human genetics really.

Its like that genetican who, some month ago uttered "Maybe genes work totaly different from what we actual think they do"

Because at the moment, less than 2% of the things that we KNOW that they MUST be inheritated (physical apearance and so on) can be explained by DNA at the moment.

And since it cant be that 98% of how a face looks is nurture and 2% is genetical.

The 2% just tell us: Something in what we think how genes work must be totaly wrong.

Anonymous said...

Romulus you didn't understand the study correctly. They show that there is a genetic link with IQ (using twins, the general population). However they are not able to pinpoint which SNP's lead to these IQ differences. This suggests to them that there are many SNP's that affect IQ rather than a few.

IQ is still genetic but the genes regulating IQ are too many to pinpoint.

Fiend of 9 worlds said...

If there was a single IQ gene that strongly worked then it would be fixed in most of the world from natural selection.

Fanty said...

I think we will finaly find out that DNA works a little bit like a language. And at the moment we compare 2 texts letter by letter or words and have minimum random success. While in truth, the only thing with a meaning is the content of the text. And that the same thing can be said by using different words.

And thats why we fail to find relations.

dbnut said...

@Turkmen: do you have a divine revelation, or something?

I wish you'd rephrase to something like "... my understanding of the study is ..."

Katharós said...

Might interest some readers.

Prof. Charles ffrench-Constant - Why Doesn't the Brain Repair Itself?

LivoniaG said...

For years now, hardcore genetics has promised an intelligence gene, a language gene, a schizophrenia gene, an autism gene, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

Big disappointment has not stopped big money from continuing to support this kind of research in intelligence for obvious reasons. If intellectual performance is genetic, then why are we wasting all this tax money trying to educate people who are innately inferior?

If you are properly cynical, you might see this particular study as a kind of a managed retreat to the next line of defense.

Well, it turns out that it’s not really an intelligence gene, it’s “generalist” genetics, “substantial pleiotropy.” Nevertheless, “...our analyses show that a substantial proportion of the observed correlation in reading and mathematics abilities is due to genetics.”

Because these kinds of studies have all the garb of scientific authority, it’s not always easy to see how ridiculous the whole approach might be.

Can you imagine how the genetic contribution can be ZERO? No creature on earth operates with no genetic base. Can we even imagine what such an organism would be like?

And 100% genetic contribution is an automaton, a hard-wired machine that allows no external input.

Taking the genetic and non-genetic contributions to zero shows what is wrong with this approach. We can’t measure the intelligence of a desk lamp by figuring out how it knows when to go on and when to go off. Something else is determining that.

A simple example is the modern computer. A personal PC with no software is incapable of accomplishing anything. Software without hardware has nothing to run on. What is the contribution of one versus the other?

Kurzweil gives examples in his recent book about how new algorithms have allowed the same hardware to solve mathematical problems 1000s of times faster than the old algorithms. So what do we conclude? That software contributes 1000s of times more than hardware to the solution?

As far as the twins go... if they take English twins and drop one of them in Somalia at the age of two, with pigment injected into her skin, and then bring her back at 12 years old and compare her reading and math skills to the twin who stayed in England... only then can you start telling me about how twin studies can tell you something about genetic contribution.

Meantime we’ll keep hearing about epigenetics and “additive genetic factors” because the the obvious result with the twin experiment I just suggested would be another embarrassment to genomania.