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Generalist Genes and High Cognitive Abilities

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)437 - 445
Number of pages9
JournalBehavior Genetics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2009

King's Authors


The concept of generalist genes operating across diverse domains of cognitive abilities is now widely accepted. Much less is known about the etiology of the high extreme of performance. Is there more specialization at the high extreme? Using a representative sample of 4,000 12-year-old twin pairs from the UK Twins Early Development Study, we investigated the genetic and environmental overlap between web-based tests of general cognitive ability, reading, mathematics and language performance for the top 15% of the distribution using DF extremes analysis. Generalist genes are just as evident at the high extremes of performance as they are for the entire distribution of abilities and for cognitive disabilities. However, a smaller proportion of the phenotypic intercorrelations appears to be explained by genetic influences for high abilities.

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