Poor Eyesight Could Be Linked to Intelligence
An extensive genetic study has suggested that clever people are more likely to have sight problems.
Scientists investigating the link between genetics and cognitive function (or intelligence) have found that intelligent people are around 30% more likely to have genes that indicate they may need glasses or contact lenses to improve their eyesight.
Some people have generally higher cognitive function than others, but the details of how their genes affect this are poorly understood. In this study led by the University of Edinburgh, more than 200 scientists worked together to investigate the link between genetics, intelligence and other aspects of health.
They analysed the genetic information of over 300,000 individuals compiled from three existing genomic databases. As well as submitting DNA samples for analysis, study participants aged between 16 and 102 years answered questionnaires and underwent tests designed to give a measure of their general cognitive ability.
When the genetic data were analysed, researchers discovered 148 genetic regions related to how clever people are, including 58 that hadn’t previously been linked with intelligence.
They were able to identify a ‘significant genetic overlap’ between general cognitive function, reaction time and many health variables, including eyesight, blood pressure and life expectancy.
Participants with higher intelligence were 28% more likely to need glasses or contact lenses and 32% more likely to be short sighted. They were also less likely to experience health problems such as high blood pressure, heart attacks, angina, lung cancer, osteoarthritis or depression, and more likely to live longer.
The results were published in the journal Nature Communications. Dr Gail Davies, Genetic Statistician at the University of Edinburgh and leader of the analysis, said: “This study, the largest genetic study of cognitive function, has identified many genetic differences that contribute to the heritability of thinking skills.”
Although the study was conducted in people with European ancestry and cannot be extrapolated to other genetic backgrounds, it has generated a wealth of information that provides a strong foundation for future research into genetic effects on health outcomes and brain structure.
The researchers are planning further analysis of their results in order to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the decline in cognitive function that happens with illness and ageing.
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