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Genes may Guide Intelligence throughout Life

Last Updated on Aug 03, 2018
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Intelligence and Genes

Ever thought about what makes you intelligent? Why are some people more intelligent than others? Why one of the two siblings has a higher intelligence quotient (IQ) than the other? Your genes can be held responsible for this, well partly!


Intelligence is often termed as the ability to learn any new thing, reasoning, problem solving skills and understanding complex things. Measured mostly in terms of IQ, intelligence is a complex trait that is governed by numerous factors. Environmental as well as genetic factors are considered responsible for intellectual development in a person’s lifetime. However scientists are still cueing, on which genes are responsible for intelligence as it being a complex trait, is difficult to find all the genes that are accountable for intelligence.

Genes may Guide Intelligence throughout Life

Intelligence is also determined on how a child is brought up and the surroundings in which a person lives.

How are Genes Guiding Your Intelligence?

Heritability is the attribute that contributes to the genetic makeup of a person. It brings variation in the genes that are inherited from the parents. The heritability of a complex trait such as intelligence is hard to trace as it is influenced by a combination of many genes. As you grow your IQ increases, this growth is also governed by your genetic structure. Genes control how much we learn, acquire and remember things. Genes are also partially to be blamed for our short comings, however hard we try. If you find yourself at ease with practical subjects at high school but are not very good at other things like logical reasoning then it might be because your genes are guiding your abilities to learn and reason. It is the DNA, which is responsible for developing your interests in a particular area.


Genes and intelligence are highly correlated; and to prove it Dr. Ian Deary and his colleagues studied the genetic makeup of about 3500 people from around the world to assess the age related changes in memory and its relation with their genes. The study found that to a large extent it is the genetic makeup of some people that has an upper edge over others as one grows older. They remember more memories from their lifetime than others and are more intellectual. Computational intelligence has proved a great tool to find such complex genetic information.

A child with one of the parent who has a high IQ level is more likely to have a higher IQ than other kids whose parents have low IQ. Some genetic disorders like Down’s Syndrome affect intellectual abilities that are a part of intelligence. This also confirms the role of genetic makeup in controlling mental aptitude.


Intelligence: Genetic or Environmental?

Intelligence is not purely genetic; it is influenced by environment too to a great extent. Cultural background, socio economic status, biological factors are also found responsible for intellectual growth.

Cultural and socio-economic factors: The social backdrop and cultural environment also play their roles in age related changes in memory during a lifespan. The educational background of a person and his accessibility to new advancement in technology is quite dependent on the economic status of the family. This can be one of the reasons why involvement in mental and intellectual activities correspond to cerebral growth. The society and culture in which a child grows are also important factors accounting for guiding intelligence as one matures with age and experience.


Biological factors: Eating patterns and nutrition provided to a child in early age also affect the development of intelligence throughout life. An undernourished person is liable to be less intellectually developed than those who have a balanced diet lifestyle. Other factors like toxin exposure and perinatal complications can also cause disruptions in development of mental abilities.

Perinatal Complications Disrupt Mental Ability in Children

Heritability studies the impact of genetic differences on a given trait and how much the environment plays a role on the impact of that trait. It is a complex feature to understand as we cannot separate the traits influenced by genes or guided by environment alone, as both these factors influence how a person responds. The expression of genes is controlled by the surroundings in which we live. It is not a fifty-fifty scenario but intelligence in totality is guided by both factors working in tandem with each other. A child living in a sound family culture and supportive parents is more likely to enhance its genetic abilities of intelligence, while one who resides in a hard-up family with less scope of intellectual growth will have genes that are suppressed and less functional as a result of non supportive environments.

Living organisms are both influenced by nature as well as nurture. Genetic components of intellect can be enhanced by supportive atmosphere but cannot be modified. It is the combination effects of both genetic and environmental factors that guide your intelligence.

  1. Genetics and intelligence - (http://www.davidsongifted.org/Search-Database/entry/A10032)
  2. Is intelligence determined by genetics? - (https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/primer/traits/intelligence)

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