-- Robert Preidt
WEDNESDAY, Feb. 12, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists who
discovered a gene that links the thickness of the brain's gray
matter to intelligence say their finding might help improve
understanding of brain disorders such as autism and
The team looked at the cerebral cortex, which is the outside
layer of the human brain. It plays an important role in areas such
as memory, attention, thought, language and consciousness. Previous
research has shown that the thickness of the cerebral cortex is
closely linked with intelligence.
Until now, no genes associated with the thickness of the
cerebral cortex have been identified, the study authors said.
The researchers at King's College London, in England, analyzed
DNA samples and MRI brain scans from nearly 1,600 healthy
14-year-olds, who also underwent tests to determine their
The scientists examined more than 54,000 variations of genes
that might play a role in brain development. Teens with a
particular variant of one gene (called the NPTN gene) had a thinner
cortex on the left side of the brain and scored lower on the
intelligence tests, according to the study.
The findings were published Feb. 11 in the journal
This genetic variation is estimated to account for only about
0.5 percent of the total variation in intelligence. But the
findings may prove important in learning more about the biological
factors underlying conditions such as autism and schizophrenia, the
"We wanted to find out how structural differences in the brain relate to differences in intellectual ability," study lead author Dr. Sylvane Desrivieres said in a King's College news release. "The genetic variation we identified is linked to synaptic plasticity -- how neurons communicate."
"This may help us understand what happens at a neuronal level in certain forms of intellectual impairments, where the ability of the neurons to communicate effectively is somehow compromised," Desrivieres said.
"It's important to point out that intelligence is influenced by many genetic and environmental factors," she said. "The gene we identified only explains a tiny proportion of the differences in intellectual ability, so it's by no means a 'gene for intelligence.'"
The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
has more about the
brain and how it works.
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