An Intelligence Gene? High IQ May Be in Our DNA

 

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Always been the smarty pants in your group?  Awww, SNAP!  Chances are, it’s in your DNA.

Photo courtesy of wikipedia.org

Photo courtesy of wikipedia.org

A study of Dutch families (Gosso MF et al., 2006) found that Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) rs363050, located on the SNAP-25 gene is associated with “performance IQ” (i.e. non-verbal IQ).

Each copy of “A” at rs363050 in a person’s genotype increased the subjects’ performance IQ by an average of three points compared to those with no copies of “A”.The authors estimated that rs363050 accounts for 3.4% of the variation in performance IQ between people.

I learned this little tidbit while exploring my Health Traits on the 23andMe website.  A single user-posted question, “Is There Anyone Else with 2 Copies of the Gene for Intelligence?” sparked over 260 replies from users sharing their genotypes, those of their family members, as well as IQ scores, SAT/GRE scores, levels of degrees obtained, and much more to both support AND oppose the findings of this research.

When you get down to brass tacks, no one who fancies him/herself as intelligent wants to look at their own genotype & have it read otherwise … anymore than someone wants their Kindness Gene genotype to tell them they can’t be empathetic.

Of course for this and other similar discussions, there is the nature vs. nurture debate … it can be challenging to study heritability or genetic differences in intelligence due to the fact that it is difficult to rule out other factors such as environment and opportunities (Rowe et al., 1999; Turkheimer et al., 2003).

What are your thoughts re: intelligence and heritability vs. outside influences such as environment?

Have you been tested on 23andMe?  If yes, was your genotype what you expected?

 

 

 

 

Is Worry Holding You Back?

Are you a worrier? Some people are more prone to anxiety due to a genetic mutation. Research focused on a gene known as the COMT gene has show that people with two copies of the met158 variant of this gene suffer from greater anxiety than others.

Don’t Worry

Don’t despair! Other research shows that even those with a predisposition to worrying can control their reactions to anxiety-causing stimuli and enjoy a calmer existence.

Dr. Dennis Greenberger is the co-author of Mind Over Mood, which was named the Most Influential Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Book by the British Association of Cognitive and Behavioral Therapies. Mind Over Mood uses a tool known as “Thought Record” which helps people learn how to recognize, evaluate, and change negative thoughts necessary to decrease anxiety. By answering questions about anxiety-causing experiences, people are able to separate actual experiences from their mood or automatic reactions to the experiences.

Let’s say I’m going to take an exam for which I am well-prepared. However, when I enter the room, I immediately begin to feel like the other people about to take the exam seem more confident, look more prepared, etc. I have no information that this is true, and frankly, it has should have no impact whatsoever on my own performance — but worry can take the reigns and psyche you into feeling inadequate. By completing thought records, people can obtain a clearer picture of their thoughts and a deeper appreciation for how thoughts are affecting and determining their feelings.

Using this tool can really change perspective of a situation. It’s not easy work, but this learned behavior can have a tremendous positive impact on quality of life for those who suffer from chronic anxiety.

The Science of Happiness

According to recent studies, having two copies of a particular gene are the reason some of us tend to look on the bright side. Those of us who have a long variant of a gene called 5-HTLLPR (or the SERT gene), which helps to recycle serotonin faster and more efficiently than the short variant, tend to be the happiest.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays an intricate role in our behavior. Lower levels of serotonin in the brain can lead to depression. If you are a 23andMe member, you can view the single nucleotide polyporphism (SNP) data for rs4251417 where ‘C’ would indicate the short variant.

Given how well I know myself and my family history, I was not surprised to learn that I had two copies of the short variant. Some people are very discouraged to learn this about themselves. I look at it this way — knowledge is power. So I’m not hard-wired for happiness… so what? It just means that I have to try a little harder.

I always find that starting the day off with exercise leaves me feeling more positive throughout the day. It may be the LAST thing I want to do when I wake up in the morning, but I know how much better I feel after a workout.

Other ways to boost your serotonin levels include a good hearty meal (yep, that’s why they call it comfort food!) as well as good times with friends or family. Try choosing what suits you best on a given day.

Stay positive! Your genes do play a role in how you feel, but ultimately YOU are in control of your reactions.

Drug Sensitivity and Genetics: What You Need to Know and Share with Your Doctor

 

At some point in our lives, we are all more than likely going to be prescribed medications to treat an acute or chronic illness.  The way each of our bodies responds to drugs is different, and our genes play a role in this.  The science that predicts a response to drugs based on genetics is pharmacogenomics.

If you have ever read the labeling information about a new or existing drug that you or a family member have been prescribed, you have likely read about possible adverse events (side effects).  Pharmaceutical companies are starting to include pharmacogenomic data in their products’ labeling.  If you have had genetic testing done, the results can help your health care provider choose an appropriate drug therapy for you, as well as determine what an appropriate starting dose would be for those with sensitivities.

If you haven’t had genetic testing done, drug response information from your immediate family
members can be helpful for your doctor to know as well.  Talk to your siblings and parents about their health history. Tell you health care providers if you are discussing drug treatment and you have had personal genetic testing done. Likewise if you are aware of a certain drug sensitivity or positive response to a drug of a sibling or parent.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, there is an ongoing need for physicians to  educate themselves about pharmacogenomics.  If your physician is dismissive when you attempt to share this important information, you may need to look for a doctor who values informed patients who want to take an active role in their health care decisions.