An international team of researhers have found 74 genetic variations that are linked to how far a person will go in school.
An international team of researchers has identified 74 genes that are linked to a person’s education level, meaning these genes may influence how far you would go for your education or whether you attend university.
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This is the largest study of its kind where the focus is on genetics instead of factors like motivation, encouragement or IQ level which are the usually required for getting more education.
“Education attainment is a complex phenomenon, and mostly influenced by social and other environmental factors, but we knew that genes play a role too,” Professor Peter Visscher from University of Queensland said.
“Your level of education determines so many other aspects of how your life unfolds. There is a widely accepted relationship between educational attainment and health outcomes, but we don’t fully understand its causes.”
Though, these gene variants have an impact on your education but their contribution is fairly minor. The 74 genes together comprise just 0.43% of genetic contribution to overall educational achievement. Those who carry more of those genes, have more chances of staying in education. For instance, if a person contains two copies of genetic variant with the strongest known effect would stay nine more weeks in school than a person with no copies.
For the study, researchers analyzed the genetic material of around 300,000 people. Overall, researchers indentified 9 million gene variants which could influence schooling in one way or another but 74 of them showed the strongest impact on an individual’s educational level.
The findings of the study are by no means definitive. Researchers are not sure how exactly the education-related genes work. Since only people with European ancestry were examined in the study, it is unclear whether the outcome can be applied to those who are living in other parts of the world like Asia and Africa.
“Crucially, the latest finding does not show that your educational attainment is something determined at birth. There are many other factors that come into play,” said Visscher. “But it’s an intriguing piece of puzzle and defiantly opens new door for research.”
The study could also help scientists to understand the hidden aspects of the biology of brain development and may help develop treatments to mental diseases.
“It is a rich vein of material which, when applied responsibly, adds to our understanding of the human condition. For example, we found that the genes that are associated with higher educational attainment are, on average, also associated with a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Visscher.
“These tiny genetic differences may ultimately help to understand why some people are more susceptible to early cognitive decline than others.”