Thursday, May 31, 2007

Can disabling a gene make you smarter - Joel Schneider guest post

The following is a guest blog post by Joel Schneider (Clinical psychologist, Illinois State University), a member of IQs Corner Virtual Community of Scholars project.

Can Disabling a Gene Make You Smarter?

Try answering this analogy: Athletes are to Steroids as Scholars are to ___________.

Erdos’s joke that mathematicians are machines that turn coffee into theorems notwithstanding, there is no really good answer to this question. That may change in the near future, however. Soon we may be faced with a deluge of drugs and genetic procedures that enhance cognitive functioning.

A new study to be published in Nature Neuroscience was released recently may be a harbinger of things to come. The researchers disabled a gene in mice and the mice with the disabled gene performed better than the control group on a variety of cognitive tasks like navigating mazes and remembering how to avoid shocks. The gene in question codes for an enzyme that is implicated in Alzheimer’s dementia.

Here is the new twist: the gene was disabled in adult mice and only in the brain! Amazing! If these similar techniques become available for humans, the raging controversies about whether IQ is partly inherited will be moot. Soon envious people will spread rumors about “unnaturally” quicklearners and call them names like “brain-tweakers” and “GENE-iuses.”

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