Study reveals over 1,200 genes connected to academic success

BY TYLER MACDONALD
Posted on OCT 04, 2019

An international team of researchers identified over 1,200 genes connected to academic success.

A new study conducted by researchers from around the world reveals over 1,200 genetic variants that are connected with the amount of schooling a person completes. Using their data, they created a "polygenic score" that is predictive of over 11 percent of the variation in academic success across individuals.

"It moves us in a clearer direction in understanding the genetic architecture of complex behavior traits like educational attainment," said co-first author Robbee Wedow, a graduate student from the University of Colorado Boulder.
The team examined over 1.1 million people from 15 countries and used quantitative meta-analysis to examine both genetic data and questionnaires regarding academic achievement in people 30 and over of European descent.

"It would be completely misleading to characterize our results as identifying genes for education," co-author Daniel Benjamin of the University of Southern California clarified.

But the 1,271 variants combined can explain approximately 4 percent of the academic achievement variations between individuals in the study. Impressively, when the team created their polygenic score using all of the variants measured across the human genome, they found that it was predictive of about 11 to 13 percent of the variation in schooling completed.

"That is a large effect for a polygenic score, especially for a behavioral outcome," Wedow said.

But although this score is useful for research, Wedow claims that it is not deterministic.

"Having a low polygenic score absolutely does not mean that someone won't achieve a high level of education," he said. "As with many other outcomes, it is a complex interplay between environment and genetics that matters."

The findings were published in Nature Genetics