Thursday, May 25, 2017

More genes linked to IQ

Because IQ is linked to so much else, psychometricians have long expected it to be polygenetic: Many genes have an input into it.  I have always favoured the view that a high IQ is simply one aspect of general biological good functioning.  The brain is just another organ of the body, after all. So if that is the case, the number of genes linked to IQ should be very large indeed.  So the work below is just a first step.

Various reports of this study distort its results --  with the NYT in the lead on that.  So let me answer them here:

The NYT says: "These genes do not determine intelligence, however. Their combined influence is minuscule".  That is exactly the opposite of what the study found.  I append the journal abstract below so readers can check for themselves.  The authors found that their 52 genes explained 5% of the variance in IQ.  That per cent of variance explained is about normal in psychological research and has been used to support many claims of causality.  And the 5% will rise as more genes are analysed.

Other reports misunderstood the links to Alzheimers and Schizophrenia.  The study found that people with high IQ genes had LESS Alzheimers and Schizophrenia, not more.  It is interesting, however, that high IQ genes are associated with autism.  As is well known, autistic people often have extreme mental abilities in some fields, so the finding is not too surprising.  Most high IQ people are not autistic, however.

I liked the finding that high IQ people are tall, thin and unlikely to smoke. I am an example of that.  I am 5'10", was very skinny in my early life and have never smoked. 5'10" is not that tall these days but when I was born 73 years ago it was. The average male height in Australia has increased 3" in the last 50 years.

Intelligence is one of the most investigated traits in humans, but so far, only a handful of genes have been associated with the trait.

Now, researchers have made a major advance in understanding the genetic underpinnings of intelligence, uncovering 52 genes for the trait, 40 of which are new discoveries.

In particular they found that many people with these genes are more likely to have other traits, including being tall, thin and unlikely to smoke.

Scientists hope the findings could provide new biological insights into brain function and understanding, and help to define the genetic component of IQ.

The findings also turned up a surprising connection between intelligence and autism that could one day help shed light on the condition's origins.

"For the first time, we were able to detect a substantial amount of genetic effects in IQ," said Danielle Posthuma, a researcher at the Center for Neurogenomics and Cognitive Research in Amsterdam, and the main architect of the study. "Our findings provide insight into the biological underpinnings of intelligence," she told AFP.

An international research team led by Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam studied genetic data from over 78,000 individuals. The data included information on DNA genotypes and intelligence scores, which led the team to discover new genes and biological routes for intelligence.

Despite high heritability estimates of 45 per cent in childhood and 80 per cent in adulthood, until now, only a few genes had been associated with. But the new study uncovered 40 new genes, most of which are mainly expressed in brain tissue.

Professor Posthuma said: 'These results are very exciting as they provide very robust associations with intelligence. 'The genes we detect are involved in the regulation of cell development, and are specifically important in synapse formation, axon guidance and neuronal differentiation.

'These findings for the first time provide clear clues towards the underlying biological mechanisms of intelligence.'

The results showed that people with the genes were more likely to have high educational achievements, and were also likely to be taller, not to smoke, and to have autism spectrum disorder.

In contrast, people with the intelligence genes were less likely to have Alzheimer's disease, depressive symptoms, smoking history, schizophrenia, high body mass index, or obesity.

Dr Suzanne Sniekers, who also worked on the study, said: 'These genetic correlations shed light on common biological pathways for intelligence and other traits.

'Seven genes for intelligence are also associated with schizophrenia; nine genes also with body mass index, and four genes were also associated with obesity. 'These three traits show a negative correlation with intelligence.

'So, a variant of gene with a positive effect on intelligence, has a negative effect on schizophrenia, body mass index or obesity.'

The researchers stress that future studies will be needed to clarify the exact role of these genes in intelligence in order to gain a more complete picture of how genetic differences lead to differences in intelligence.

Professor Posthuma added: 'The current genetic results explain up to five per cent of the total variance in intelligence.

'Although this is quite a large amount of variance for a trait as intelligence, there is still a long road to go: given the high heritability of intelligence, many more genetic effects are expected to be important, and these can only be detected in even larger samples.'


Genome-wide association meta-analysis of 78,308 individuals identifies new loci and genes influencing human intelligence

Suzanne Sniekers et al.

Intelligence is associated with important economic and health-related life outcomes1. Despite intelligence having substantial heritability2 (0.54) and a confirmed polygenic nature, initial genetic studies were mostly underpowered3, 4, 5. Here we report a meta-analysis for intelligence of 78,308 individuals. We identify 336 associated SNPs (METAL P < 5 × 10−8) in 18 genomic loci, of which 15 are new. Around half of the SNPs are located inside a gene, implicating 22 genes, of which 11 are new findings. Gene-based analyses identified an additional 30 genes (MAGMA P < 2.73 × 10−6), of which all but one had not been implicated previously. We show that the identified genes are predominantly expressed in brain tissue, and pathway analysis indicates the involvement of genes regulating cell development (MAGMA competitive P = 3.5 × 10−6). Despite the well-known difference in twin-based heratiblity2 for intelligence in childhood (0.45) and adulthood (0.80), we show substantial genetic correlation (rg = 0.89, LD score regression P = 5.4 × 10−29). These findings provide new insight into the genetic architecture of intelligence.

Nature Genetics. (2017) doi:10.1038/ng.3869


Morally Challenged: Attitudes Liberals Promote Engender Behaviors They Deplore

Two fascinating Gallup polls have been released this month on the subject of morality. I will address the sexual issues that were surveyed.

Americans believe the following are morally acceptable: birth control (91%); divorce (73%); sex between an unmarried man and woman (69%); gay or lesbian relations (63%); having a baby outside of marriage (62%); abortion (43%); sex between teenagers (36%); pornography (36%); polygamy (17%); extramarital affairs (9%). These findings were posted May 11.

These percentages were never higher for birth control, divorce, gay or lesbian relations, having a baby out of wedlock, pornography, and polygamy. The one piece of good news is on abortion: 49 percent say it is morally wrong.

Findings from May 22 show that 81 percent of the public says the state of moral values is "only fair" or "poor." Is the state of moral values getting worse? According to 77 percent of the public, the answer is yes.

"Even liberals," Gallup says, "who seemingly should be pleased with the growing number of Americans who agree with their point of view on the morality of prominent social issues, are more likely to say things are getting worse than getting better."

There are a number of things going on here that command our attention.

Americans are increasingly non-judgmental about sexual relations between consenting adults, but they are not happy with the state of moral values. This paradox suggests that more Americans are morally challenged than ever before.

To cite one issue, it is one thing to say that having a baby outside of marriage is morally acceptable, quite another to say it is a good thing. There's the rub: Most Americans know someone who is in that situation and don't want to appear condemnatory, but they also recognize that this is not a good condition to be in, either for the mother or the child.

We need to be mature about this. If we want more of something, we offer rewards and incentives; if we want less, we employ negative sanctions and stigmatize. This is a sociological truism.

For example, we don't have a problem stigmatizing smokers, and as a result fewer are smoking today than was true a half century ago when smoking was socially acceptable. We want to reduce out-of-wedlock births, but we don't want to stigmatize the mother or the child (the father usually escapes sanctions). The result is we have a higher rate of out-of-wedlock births than we did a half century ago when such a condition was socially unacceptable.

It is our immaturity that accounts for our morally challenged condition. As long as we reject the stick of stigma to curb conditions that we deplore, there will be little progress in stemming them.

Liberals are the most morally confused of any segment of the population. They are delighted that their "tolerant" views on sexuality have caught on with most Americans, but they are nonetheless unhappy with the state of moral values.

They want to have it both ways—more liberal attitudes on sexuality and less moral problems—but they cannot. Not until they connect the dots and realize that the attitudes which they promote engender the behaviors  that they deplore, will progress be made. As usual, liberals get it wrong.



Exposing Obamacare’s Big Lie

In a recent op-ed at Forbes, Independent Institute Senior Fellow John C. Goodman and co-author Linda Gorman take on the latest Big Lie put forth by advocates of Obamacare: the notion that repealing the 2010 health law would kill 24,000 to 43,000 people a year. The claim has been made by various pundits, but it comes from a few studies that have repeated a mistake first made in a medical journal article published almost 25 years ago, Goodman and Gorman explain.

The false equation of health coverage and health outcomes has a long pedigree. In 1993, the Journal of the American Medical Association published an article that compared results from a survey in 1987 with those of a survey of the same people conducted in the early 1970s, and came to an ominous conclusion about the relationship between health coverage and death. The authors concluded that being uninsured raises the likelihood of death by 25 percent. But their inference was erroneous; they carelessly assumed that auto fatalities, suicides, and gun deaths resulted from the coverage status of the deceased. A 2002 report from the Institute of Medicine took the erroneous 25 percent rate and used it to calculate a new estimate of deaths-by-absence-of-coverage. A 2008 study by the Urban League made the same mistake, and so on.

In contrast, a careful estimate from the respected economists June and David O’Neill “concluded that uninsured people with lower incomes were only 3 percent more likely to die over a 14-year period than those with health insurance,” Goodman and Gorman writes. The uninsured in other income groups had no statistically significant greater chance of dying than the insured. “Later studies support this finding,” Goodman and Gorman write. The 2008 Oregon Health Experiment, for example, found no differences in common clinical health outcomes between low-income people who won access to Medicaid through a state lottery and those who did not.



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C. S. P. Schofield said...

"we don't have a problem stigmatizing smokers, and as a result fewer are smoking today than was true a half century ago when smoking was socially acceptable"

I would suggest that the biggest drop in smoking came with the publication of the Surgeon General's report in 1964. After an initial plunge, the number of smokers stabilized at 23-25% for a long time. My personal suspicion is that recent drops in the number of smokers are at least in part a rise in the number of people who smoke, but don't admit it. Another factor to consider is that the anti-smoking Crusade (American Lung Association, American Cancer Society, and so forth) have from the 1980's on engaged in a great deal of fakery, similar to that engaged in by the Climate Change cabal.

Smoking is a vice. Crusades again vice frequently engage in questionable tactics, false research, alarmism, and the like. They also seldom make much of a dent in the vices at issue.

Anonymous said...

JR, could not find a GENERAL posting for the below - move it if you want to.
Hello JR,

I am an INNISFAILER like you. Been here 4 years and have not decided whether I like the place, although I have a fondness for country towns.

I was brought up a Christian (High and Low Church of England), and believed every word of the stories. A 10 year old would always believe something said by a man of the cloth. It was not until I reached 18 years, that I realised I had been conned.

I, like you, am an atheist, but I have been reading the Old Testament (in simple English) and am fascinated by it. It is a great story, but will always remain a story. I am fascinated how the early folk, when confronted with a seemingly complex situation, concocted a story to explain it. And the story became the truth.

Goebbels: A lie told once remains a lie but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth.

I have always held a fascination for the Universe, and the number of stories about its creation, including the one that the gods placed a dark cloth over the night sky, and painted the stars on it.

It seems the Greeks had it right – the Universe has always been there - there was no Day 1, and it goes on forever. Despite the significant advances in cosmology, I suspect we still know little about the universe, particularly the universe beyond our sight.

I am not a political animal, neither left, right or something in between. I generally/ almost always favour the Liberal Party, but they can go off at a crooked tangent sometimes. I am a conservationist, simply because if we continue to shit in our own nest, it will become a very sticky nest indeed. The plasticization of just about everything made today, and its subsequent disposal (often in the ocean) is of great concern. I remember being in Madang (north coast of Papua New Guinea) when Roz Savage (solo) paddled from San Francisco to Papua New Guinea. When speaking to us locals on her arrival, she said she paddled through 10s of kilometres of floating plastic waste, about 10 metres deep, stretching from her boat to the horizon for 7 or 8 days.

Your writings are well substantiated (as any academic worth his or her salt would know), are appreciated, and make for good reading.

Thank you for your substantial contribution to good scholarship.