From Genes To Genius!

DNA is commonly known as the ‘carrier of information’. Hereditary factors are determined by DNA. When we talk about all of these, the age old debate of ‘Nature vs. Nurture’, comes into light. It is often argued, ‘What is the exact level of influence that DNA has upon a person?’. We are aware that numerous qualities of the parents are transferred to the children, via DNA. However, the environment and surroundings of the child, coupled with the sort of upbringing and moral values that are imparted to him/her, are all determining factors of the kind of individual he/she will grow up to become.

This brings us to the question, Can a DNA test measure intelligence/IQ?

A DNA testing is the blessing of science and technology, for the years of research and hard work put into developing genetic studies. It has innumerable uses, out of which, the most prominent ones are-paternity testing, to determine the lineage of a person; and, forensic uses, for gathering evidence.

Hence, it suffices to say that DNA has far reaching effects in the different spheres of science. However, DNA as being a measurement of Intelligence Quotient is still a matter up for discussion. In a study published in the Molecular Psychiatry, researchers conducted a measurement of the academic achievement of students in Mathematics and English. 5,825 children took part in the study, ages- 5, 12 and 16 years. They found 74 genetic variants that are significant traits, which are associated with academic achievement.

Saskia Selzam is a biological psychiatrist. She works at King’s College London and was the first author of the study conducted. According to her, DNA can be used to determine up to 10% of differences in academic achievements of children. Though the remaining 90% might seem like a lot more. Yet, if one was to truly consider the effects of the study, they would understand what a breakthrough this actually is. She says that DNA can be used, by a process known as ‘Polygenic scoring’, to determine these variations in educational accomplishment.

But then, a different question comes to the surface-‘Is educational qualification a sole determinant of intelligence?’ If one were to look back at the likes of Albert Einstein, one can never deny that, despite facing troubles with his schoolwork, he was a genius in the true sense. His contributions to physics are still a part of even the most elementary level education of the subject. Therefore, we are faced with a challenge, to understand what intelligence would actually mean in the given scenario. Cognition and human behavior are very complex. They cannot be deciphered with ease.

All things aside, a fact remains that intelligence is a variable quantity, which is only partially determined by one’s genes. The environment is the other key ingredient that aids in ones’ cognitive development, thereby playing a crucial role in the measurement of their intelligence. Thomas Bouchard’s study on identical twins that were raised apart, has shown that genes can partially predict their intelligence. Thus, even though we may have a long road to cover before genetic testing is used to determine one’s IQ on a large scale basis, it is still a possibility and one that can prove to be more reliable than IQ tests, in measuring a persons’ IQ.