Brain Gene Plays Big Role in Intelligence

SALT LAKE CITY, April 26 (UPI) — U.S. brain researchers say they’ve found the brain gene STX1A plays a significant role in the level of intelligence displayed by Williams Syndrome patients.

A multi-institution team led by University of Utah Professor Julie Korenberg says its findings could have implications for the understanding of intelligence and treatment of neurological disease in the general population.

Researchers at UCLA, the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, the Salk Institute and the University of Utah found variations in the expression of STX1A could account for 15.6 percent of cognitive variation in a group of 65 Williams Syndrome patients. STX1A is involved in the electrochemical processes that occur at the brain’s synapses.

Williams Syndrome is a neurodevelopmental disorder caused by the deletion of two dozen genes from chromosome 7 — a tiny fraction of the nearly 30,000 genes found in humans, the scientists said. But such patients have one less copy each of the genes in question than the general population and typically exhibit an IQ of 60, compared to an average of 100 for the general population.

“This study shows in part how nature’s hand shapes intelligence at the synapse,” Korenberg said. “Monitoring gene expression may provide unique insights into the neurobiology and genetics of intelligence in Williams Syndrome subjects and possibly the general population,” Korenberg said.

The research appears in the online journal PLoS One.

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