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Researchers find 74 genes linked to educational attainment

Brain scientists have isolated 74 genes linked to high educational attainment, though they say getting top marks may simply be a by-product.

The research, published in the journal Naturefound these genes have a role in the brain’s development of neurons – the cells that transmit the brain’s electrical and chemical signals throughout the body. These genes also are associated with a decreased risk of dementia and neuroticism but a higher risk of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

The researchers believe high educational attainment isn’t the direct result of having these genes; instead, they said the genes were probably a proxy for something else. Further studies will occur in the area.

“Are they simply genes to do with cognitive ability? Are they genes to do with resilience? Are they genes to do with conscientiousness and all these kinds of personality traits?” said professor Peter Visscher, one of the researchers from the University of Queensland’s Queensland Brain Institute. “We do not know that at present. It’s a proxy for probably a number of other traits. We don’t know yet why. That’s something we want to substantively study.”

Visscher also cautioned against these research findings being exaggerated, because while the genes play a reasonably significant role in one’s educational attainment, social and environmental factors still have bigger impacts on one’s educational attainment.

“This latest finding does not show that your educational attainment is something determined at birth,” he said.

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