Monday, September 26, 2016
Babies with big heads are more likely to be clever and have successful futures, a study has shown
Research carried out by UK Biobank has strongly linked higher intelligence with large head circumferences and brain volume. Half a million British people are being monitored by the charity to discover the connection between their genes, their physical and mental health and their path through life. The UK Biobank, launched in 2007, is a major long-term investigation into the respective contributions of genetic predisposition and environmental exposure in the development of disease. The latest evidence is the first finding to emerge from the study that aims to break down the relationship between brain function and DNA. Researchers found highly significant associations were observed between the cognitive test scores in the UK Biobank sample and many polygenic profile scores, including intracranial volume, infant head circumference and childhood cognitive ability. The researchers tested the participants in a variety of ways - looking into their verbal and numerical reasoning, reaction time, memory and educational attainment. Professor Ian Deary, of Edinburgh University, who is leading the research, said that gene variants were also strongly associated with intelligence. In addition to there being shared genetic influences between cognitive skills and some physical and mental health states, the study also found that cognitive skills share genetic influences with brain size, body shape and educational attainments, according to Deary. The researchers looked at 17 genes which affect brain function and impact mental and physical health. The new evidence is so accurate experts claim that it could even predict how likely it was that a baby would go to university based on their DNA. This builds on evidence from a study by the same team which found that clever people are more likely to be healthier than those with a lower IQ. This is due to a genetic link between how our bodies manage diseases and intelligence. The researchers analyzed data from around 100,000 people held in the UK Biobank. They compared each person's mental test data with their genome and found that traits linked to disease and thinking skills shared the same genetic influences.