Babies with big heads are more likely to be clever and have successful futures, a study has shown.
Research carried out by UK Biobank has strongly linked higher intelligence with large head circumferences and brain volume.
Half a million Brits are being monitored by the charity to discover the connection between their genes, their physical and mental health and their path through life.
Research carried out by UK Biobank has strongly linked higher intelligence with large head circumferences and brain volume
The UK Biobank, launched in 2007, is a major long-term investigation into the respective contributions of genetic predisposition and environmental exposure in the development of disease.
The latest evidence is the first finding to emerge from the study that aims to break down the relationship between brain function and DNA.
In a paper published by the Nature journal Molecular Psychiatry, researchers said: ‘Highly significant associations were observed between the cognitive test scores in the UK Biobank sample and many polygenic profile scores, including . . . intracranial volume, infant head circumference and childhood cognitive ability.’
The researchers tested the participants in a variety of ways – looking into their verbal and numerical reasoning, reaction time, memory and educational attainment.
Professor Ian Deary, of Edinburgh University, who is leading the research, said gene variants were also strongly associated with intelligence, according to The Times.
‘In addition to there being shared genetic influences between cognitive skills and some physical and mental health states, the study also found that cognitive skills share genetic influences with brain size, body shape and educational attainments,’ Professor Deary told Neuroscience News.
Earlier this year the scientists found ‘significant negative genetic correlations’ between a person’s education and verbal-numerical skills and Alzheimer’s disease (CT scans pictured), coronary artery disease and strokes.
SMART PEOPLE LIVE LONGER
The results of the Edinburgh-based study published in January built on previous research that found 95 per cent of the link between intelligence and life expectancy is genetic.
Using a study on twins, experts from the London School of Economics found brighter twins tend to live longer and noted the pattern was much more pronounced in fraternal – non identical – twins, than identical pairs.
By looking at both fraternal twins – who only share half their twin’s DNA – with identical twins, researchers were also able to distinguish between genetic effects and environmental factors, including housing, schooling and childhood nutrition.
The researchers looked at 17 genes which affect brain function and impact mental and physical health.
The new evidence is so accurate experts claim it could even predict how likely it was that a baby would go to university based on their DNA.
This builds on evidence from a study by the same team earlier this year – which found clever people are more likely to be healthier than those with a lower IQ.
This is due to a genetic link between how our bodies manage diseases and intelligence.
The researchers analysed data from around 100,000 people held in the UK Biobank.
They compared each person’s mental test data with their genome and found that traits linked to disease and thinking skills shared the same genetic influences.