DNA markers associated with general and specific cognitive abilities

Stephen A. Petrill, Robert Plomin, Gerald E. McClearn, Deborah L. Smith, Sylvia Vignetti, Michael J. Chorney, Karen Chorney, Lee A. Thompson, Douglas K. Detterman, Camilla Benbow, David Lubinski, Joanna Daniels, Michael J. Owen, Peter McGuffin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Multivariate quantitative genetic research suggests a hierarchical model of cognitive abilities where genetic effects are largely general, cutting across most cognitive abilities. Some genetic effects, however, are specific to certain cognitive abilities. These results lead to a hypothesis for molecular genetic research: Although most genes associated with one cognitive ability will be related to other cognitive abilities, some genes will be specific to a particular cognitive ability. The current research explored this hypothesis in an analysis of data in specific cognitive abilities from 86 children from 6 to 12 years of age from a larger allelic association study of general cognitive ability. Eight DNA markers were entered simultaneously in separate multiple regression analyses predicting each of four specific cognitive ability factors (Verbal, Spatial, Perceptual Speed, Memory), as well as WISC-R subtest scores. Four marjers (CTGB33, EST00083, HLA, and SOD2) showed similar effects across the cognitive ability scales, suggesting that they are related to general cognitive ability (g). These associations became negligible when the effects of 'g' (WISC-R IQ) were removed. Three markers (ADH5, DM, and NGFB) continued to be significantly associated with specific cognitive ability scales after the effects of 'g' were removed. Although preliminary, these molecular genetic results support the hierarchical model predicted by quantitative genetic research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)191-203
Number of pages13
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 1996

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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