An American scientist working in Britain says he has isolated the first specific gene to be associated with human intelligence.
Professor Robert Plomin, a behavioral geneticist at London’s Institute of Psychiatry, compared DNA from two groups of children of average intelligence with that of highly intelligent children at a U.S. summer camp - and found the gene IGF2R appeared more often in smart youngsters’ DNA.
“I really think this is a breakthrough,” Plomin said in a Channel 4 documentary on his work, broadcast Monday night.
His six-year study in conjunction with Penn State University immunology Prof. Michael Chorney has caused controversy.
In a letter to the journal Behavior Genetics, Professor Peter Harper, director of the Institute of Molecular Medicine in Cardiff, Wales, argued that the research could lead to genetic screening of embryos and fetuses for “intelligence genes” without an adequate scientific basis.
Others applauded the study.
“This work can help us understand that people differ in propensity and potentialities, and if it can lead to finding out how to better respond to these difficulties and to a more nurturing environment for them, I think it could be very positive,” said Cornell University psychology Prof. Camilla Benbow.
Plomin’s team analyzed genetic material from blood donated by more than 300 people to locate a genetic marker which is linked to general intelligence.
They compared the genes of children of different abilities: two groups of average ability and one of “super-high ability” who attended a summer school specially designed for them by Iowa State University.