Under the Hood

Genes Vs. Environment: What Influences Your Intelligence Most?

Do hard work and dedication lead to good grades, or is intelligence inherent, and no amount of studying can make us “smarter?” Educators and students have been debating this question for years, but here’s what science has to say about how our genes and environment influence intelligence.

Genes

A news report suggesting that intelligence is inherited from our mothers more than our fathers has recently gone viral. According to the article, the genes linked to intelligence are found on the X chromosome, and since women have two of these while men have only one, women likely contribute more to their offspring’s overall IQ, Second Nexus reported. This may not be entirely true; intelligence is far more complicated than simply inheriting a “smart” gene, though genes do play a large part in creating a genius. 

For example, last year, researchers from King's College London theorized that genetic predisposition accounted for 54 to 65 percent of differences in children’s tests scores. This meant that external factors, such as what school the child attended and what type of home environment they had accounted for only 12 to 21 percent of the score differences.

“There’s a general academic achievement factor. Children who do well in one subject tend to (do) better in another subject and that is largely for genetic reasons,” the study’s first author Kaili Rimfeld told The Guardian.

In addition, a 2013 study claimed to have identified 10 small mutations in our DNA which account for people's educational achievements. However, each mutation accounted only for around 0.02 percent of an individual's intelligence, but together, all the mutations could possibly account for as much as 20 percent of a person’s intelligence.  

school Your intelligence is a combination of both who you are and what you've done. Photo Courtesy of Pixabay

Environment

While it’s clear that parents have a large influence on their children’s intelligence, how they raise their children may be just as important as which genes they pass on. For example, a 2012 study from Washington University in St. Louis found that having a loving and nurturing mother significantly contributed to a child’s eventual intelligence. In the study, the team observed that children whose mothers nurtured them early in life had a larger hippocampus, an area of the brain linked to learning and memory.

“I think the public health implications suggest that we should pay more attention to parents’ nurturing, and we should do what we can as a society to foster these skills because clearly nurturing has a very, very big impact on later development,” lead study author Dr. Joan L. Luby explained in a statement.

Other research has suggested that playing a musical instrument early in life could be a strong predictor of academic success. In a 2014 study, researchers from the University of Toronto found that  musicians' brains were more active than the non-musicians' brains, and they performed better on cognitive tests.

Read More:

Does Music Make You Smarter? Brain Imaging Technology Says Yes, In More Ways Than One: Read Here

Genes And Intelligence: It's All Or Nothing When It Comes To Academic Success In All Subjects: Read Here

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