In the search to increase important economic and health-related life benefits linked to cognitive abilities, and knowing that many of these benefits are linked to the combined action of thousands of very, very small genetic effects, researchers have recognized that they need to pull together massive samples to make progress.
That recognition has begun to bear fruit, with multiple new genes influencing cognitive ability being reported, for instance, from UK Biobank.
Now, combining DNA and cognitive data from almost 80,000 individuals has yielded over 300 individual SNPs in 18 distinct genomic regions, 15 of which were previously unknown. These regions contain 22 genes, again, 11 of which are novel targets for understanding variation in human cognition.
Fully half of these 300+ SNPs are located inside genes, predominantly genes expressed in the brain where they influence the cellular developmental trajectories. The data may even yield more hits, with approaches aggregating evidence at the gene-level rather than the SNP level identifying 30 more genes. These results require replication, and no doubt labs around the world are onto this task.
The original paper, senior-authored by past ISIR speaker Daniel Posthuma is available at Nature Genetics