Academic Success Determined By Genetics

Posted: July 12, 2012 at 10:12 am

Editor's Choice Main Category: Genetics Also Included In: Psychology / Psychiatry;Pediatrics / Children's Health Article Date: 11 Jul 2012 - 14:00 PDT

Current ratings for: Academic Success Determined By Genetics

The study is published in the July edition of the American Psychological Association's journal Developmental Psychology.

Leading author Kevin Beaver, a professor at the College of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida State University explains: "Being able to show that specific genes are related in any way to academic achievement is a big step forward in understanding the developmental pathways among young people."

Beaver and his team discovered three genes in their study, which were identified as DAT1, DRD2 and DRD4 genes, were associated with behaviors, including motivation, intelligence, attention regulation, violence and cognitive skills.

Beaver remarks that although earlier studies have investigated the genetic foundations of intelligence, none of these studies has examined genes that could potentially contribute to educational attainment in population samples.

The team analyzed data from 1,674 respondents obtained from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), which is a 4-wave study of a nationally representative sample of American adolescents enrolled in 1994 and 1995 when the youths were in middle or high school. The study ended in 2008, when the majority of the respondents were between 24 and 32 years old. All study participants, including their parents were surveyed and interviewed and provided DNA samples.

The genes discovered by the team are known as dopamine transporter and receptor genes, and although every person possesses the DAT1, DRD2 and DRD4 gene, Beaver says that the area of interest lies in the alleles, i.e. the molecular differences within the genes. The researchers found that people with certain alleles within these genes achieved the highest levels of education.

The team explains that dopamine transporter genes help in the production of proteins that control dopamine levels (a neurotransmitter) in the brain, while dopamine receptor genes play a role in neurotransmission. According to earlier studies, dopamine levels are involved in controlling impulsive behavior, attention and intelligence.

The team observed that possessing these alleles alone provided no guarantee of a person going on to higher levels of education, given that lower levels of education were more strongly linked to lower IQ levels, and that regardless of genetic effects, living in poor circumstances and 'mixing up with the wrong people' also led to lower levels of education.

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Academic Success Determined By Genetics

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