Is intelligence inheritable among population groups

Researchers find genetic changes that affect intelligence

Yes, intelligence is hereditary. At least in part. Science has long agreed on this. But how exactly this part of the mental performance is inherited - research knows almost nothing about it yet. In addition, it is controversial how intelligence can be defined and measured at all. An international team of dozens of scientists from the Social Science Genetic Association Consortium has now attempted a mammoth task - and cleared up some of these complicated connections.

It is known from previous twin studies that the genetic makeup is responsible for around 50 percent - estimates vary - for mental performance. The rest can be explained with the conditions in which a person lives. However, it is not known which gene variants are responsible for this approximately 50 percent influence.

Genes from 1.1 million people examined

This is exactly where the current large-scale study starts. The scientists examined the genome of more than 1.1 million people of European descent aged 30 or over. They concentrated on an indicator of intelligence that is easy to check: the educational success achieved, i.e. school or university degree. Some of the data came from previous surveys and some had just become available, for example from the UK Biobank long-term study and the biotechnology company 23andMe.

The researchers then coordinated their work across continents with regular telephone conferences, says Aysu Okbay from the Free University of Amsterdam, one of the main authors. They compared the educational success of the participants and their genetic material.