Modifications in the structure of a specific gene caused by environmental changes can negatively affect an individual test performance, finds a new study. The findings of this study are published in the journal of Translational Psychiatry. Stress and adverse life experiences are examples of environmental factors that can affect gene activity, leading to structural changes in our genetic material (genome). These 'epigenetic changes' enable the human genome to adapt to its environment, allowing our DNA to be passed on to the next generation of cells, as well as passing on the information that determines whether, and under which conditions, a particular gene will be activated. This study was led by Dr. Jakob Kaminski and Prof. Dr. Andreas Heinz of Charité's Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy on Campus Charité Mitte. The international team of researchers compared the IQ test results of close to 1,500 adolescents with epigenetic modifications. The study focused on testing genes that are important in dopamine-based signal transmission (dopamine neurotransmission). ‘Environmentally-induced genetic changes can have a greater impact on intelligence than what was previously thought.’ Dopamine plays an important role in the brain's reward system and is crucial in modulating a person's drive and motivation. The researchers were able to demonstrate a link between the epigenetic regulation of dopamine neurotransmission and an individual's IQ test performance. Epigenetic modification resulted in the dopamine receptor gene being silenced: neurons carried fewer dopamine receptors, and signal transmission was reduced. In this current study, silencing of the gene was associated with lower IQ test results. Commenting on the results of the study, Dr. Kaminski explains: "We have previously been able to observe links between stress and cognitive performance, particularly in relation to the activity of the dopamine-controlled reward system. Environmentally-induced gene activity now joins the ranks of other factors known to influence IQ test performance, such as poverty and genetic constitution. In this study, we were able to observe how individual differences in IQ test results are linked to both epigenetic changes and differences in brain activity which are underly environmental influences." The researchers are hoping to conduct more in-depth studies to determine the extent of environmentally-induced neurobiological modifications, as well as the degree to which these modifications affect IQ test performance. Source: Eurekalert << Why Do Autoimmune Diseases Take a Long Time to Cause Organ ... Stimulator Implant in the Spinal Cord Helps a Paralyzed Man... >> Recommended Reading Importance of Both Genetics and Environment on Gene Activity Studied New research conducted by scientists has highlighted the extent to which epigenetic variation is influenced by both inherited and environmental factors. READ MORE Natural Environment In Rural And Coastal Areas More Beneficial Rural and coastal natural environments could be more beneficial psychologically when compared to urban green spaces READ MORE High-yield Farming Costs the Environment Less Than Previously Thought High-yield farming must be combined with mechanisms that limit agricultural expansion if they are to have any environmental benefit. These could include strict land-use zoning and restructured rural subsidies. READ MORE Music Can Improve Speech Perception in Noisy Environment Therapy with music can enhance speech perception, the process by which the sounds of language are heard, interpreted and understood. READ MORE Multitasking: Good or Bad for Your Brain? Is multitasking good when your brain frantically switches between tasks or does it slow down the brain processes causing changes in brain structure? Learn what happens to the brain when you multitask. READ MORE Most Popular on Medindia Calculate Ideal Weight for Infants Sinopril (2mg) (Lacidipine) Diaphragmatic Hernia More News on: Multitasking: Good or Bad for Your Brain?