As a child develops, a tug of war between genes and environment settles the issue of the child’s intelligence. One theory on how that struggle plays out proposes that among advantaged kids—with the pull of educational resources—DNA largely wins, allowing genetic variation to settle smarts. At the other end of the economic spectrum, the strong arm of poverty drags down genetic potential in the disadvantaged.
Perhaps the difference in results between the US and other countries is that other countries tend to have a cohesive national curriculum that is unified, plus more evenly distributed education funding and better distribution of good teachers, whereas the US’ educational system is piecemeal and broken down by state and municipal subdivisions, with the poorest regions being where the worst teachers are dumped and with terribly distribution of education funding
The notion that musical training can have positive effects on cognitive functions other than music has long been a source of interest. Research first emerged at the beginning of the 20th century. Standardised assessments of IQ and musical ability suggested the two were correlated – and it was thought that participation in musical training could improve IQ.
Recently, research has shifted focus from effects on musical training on global intelligence and instead focuses on benefits to specific skills and tasks in individuals.
I did learn an instrument, but in recent years I found myself wishing it had been the piano. My music theory is terrible though…
Something that wasn’t mentioned in the article was the reality that access to music training generally brings up economic status. How much is really from music training vs what other things that wouldn’t exist for those in poverty?
We know that genes play a role in how well children do in school, but there are gaps in our knowledge: is this the same for different topics in school? And can this be explained largely by intelligence, or do other genetic factors contribute?
Just linking genes and behaviours is still an area of furious debate, let alone figuring out the exact mechanisms by which those genes cause the behaviours in question. Hopefully studies like this one, that take us closer to identifying genetically-influenced traits, can also get us closer to figuring out the answer to that question.
Generalizing, look at animal behaviour for some insight. Take a typical breed to see what attributes it has. Labs are pretty consistent – loyal, happy, but destructive if you don’t keep them active. Bernese Mountain dogs for me have been similar to labs, but shorter life spans. Dachsunds have a lot of personality… I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone describe corgi’s as smart 😉
Given that humans have been using lead in various product for over 8,000 years (with the first known mining of it in Anatolia around 6500 BCE), you might be surprised to learn that we have known that lead is dangerous and shouldn’t be trifled with since at least 150 BC, when its effects on the human body were noted by famed Greek physician Nicander of Colophon. Nicander even went so far as to describe the metal as “deadly”, writing extensively on the crippling effects it has on the human body in his work, Alexipharmaca.
There’s a relatively well-known theory that applying an electric current to your head in just the right way can improve cognition. It’s popular with some scientists, internet DIYers, and students at 2AM before a final. But according to a new double-blind study, transcranial direct current stimulation makes you the opposite of clever.
An international research team has found six new genes underlying our coffee-slurping ways.
The work, led by Marilyn Cornelis, a research associate at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, found a total of eight genes, two of which had been identified in prior work by Cornelis and others. Two of the new genes were related to metabolism of caffeine and two were related to its psychoactive effects.
While the finding may not be hugely surprising, they should prove useful. Pinpointing a genetic link to caffeine reaction could allows medics and nutritionists to more accurately identify who can and can’t cope with the stimulant in their diet—and provide advice accordingly to target benefits and minimize health risk.