Human intelligence gene discovery signals hope for epilepsy treatment

Medical researchers at Imperial College London have completed a study that has highlighted two gene networks connected to human intelligence, which is the first time that such a discovery has been made.

The finding could help to pave the way for more effective treatment programmes for people with epilepsy.

As part of the study, mouse and human brains were compared when analysing the genes that are associated with cognitive ability, and two clusters called M1 and M3 were found to have almost 1,200 different genes between them.

The team then assessed 6,700 people with a neurodevelopmental disease, intellectual disability and epileptic encephalopathy, in order to collect results on their cognitive abilities, attention span, memory function and reasoning processes.

A comparison was made between the results from the large participant group against information gathered from 1,000 ‘healthy’ control participants.

It was found that the genes behind an individual’s level of intelligence were the same ones behind impaired cognitive ability and conditions such as epilepsy, when mutated.

Dr Michael Johnson, the study’s lead author, said: “We know that genetics plays a role in intelligence but until now haven’t known which genes are relevant. This research highlights some of genes involved in human intelligence, and how they interact with each other.”

As a result of the study, the researchers have claimed that it marks a positive step forward for understanding how genetic risk variants are behind conditions like epilepsy.

Dr Johnson added: “Eventually we hope that this sort of analysis will provide new insights into better treatments for neurodevelopmental disease, such as epilepsy, and ameliorate or treat the cognitive impairments associated with these devastating diseases.”

More information about the study is available in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

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