Phenotypic and genotypic correlation between myopia and intelligence

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Myopia, or near-sightedness, is our most common eye condition and the prevalence is increasing globally. Visual impairment will occur if uncorrected, whilst high myopia causes sight-threatening complications. Myopia is associated with higher intelligence. As both are heritable, we set out to examine whether there is a genetic correlation between myopia and intelligence in over 1,500 subjects (aged 14-18 years) from a twin birth cohort. The phenotypic correlation between refractive error and intelligence was -0.116 (p < 0.01) - the inverse correlation due to the fact that myopia is a negative refractive error. Bivariate twin modeling confirmed both traits were heritable (refractive error 85%, intelligence 47%) and the genetic correlation was -0.143 (95% CI -0.013 to -0.273). Of the small phenotypic correlation the majority (78%) was explained by genetic factors. Polygenic risk scores were constructed based on common genetic variants identified in previous genome-wide association studies of refractive error and intelligence. Genetic variants for intelligence and refractive error explain some of the reciprocal variance, suggesting genetic pleiotropy; in the best-fit model the polygenic score for intelligence explained 0.99% (p = 0.008) of refractive error variance. These novel findings indicate shared genetic factors contribute significantly to the covariance between myopia and intelligence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45977
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 6 Apr 2017


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