Phenotypic variation in human intellectual functioning shows substantial heritability, as demonstrated by a long history of behavior genetic studies. Many recent molecular genetic studies have attempted to uncover specific genetic variations responsible for this heritability, but identified effects capture little variance and have proven difficult to replicate. The present study, motivated an interest in "mutation load" emerging from evolutionary perspectives, examined the importance of the number of rare (or infrequent) copy number variations (CNVs), and the total number of base pairs included in such deletions, for psychometric intelligence. Genetic data was collected using the Illumina 1MDuoBeadChip Array from a sample of 202 adult individuals with alcohol dependence, and a subset of these (N = 77) had been administered the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence (WASI). After removing CNV outliers, the impact of rare genetic deletions on psychometric intelligence was investigated in 74 individuals. The total length of the rare deletions significantly and negatively predicted intelligence (r=2.30, p=.01). As prior studies have indicated greater heritability in individuals with relatively higher parental socioeconomic status (SES), we also examined the impact of ethnicity (Anglo/White vs. Other), as a proxy measure of SES; these groups did not differ on any genetic variable. This categorical variable significantly moderated the effect of length of deletions on intelligence, with larger effects being noted in the Anglo/White group. Overall, these results suggest that rare deletions (between 5% and 1% population frequency or less) adversely affect intellectual functioning, and that pleotropic effects might partly account for the association of intelligence with health and mental health status. Significant limitations of this research, including issues of generalizability and CNV measurement, are discussed.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)