epp-15-1-49 - Original Articles and Reviews Genetics and...

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Original Articles and Reviews Genetics and Cognition The Impact for Psychologists in Applied Settings Michèle Carlier 1,2 and Pierre Roubertoux 1,3 1 Aix Marseille University, France 2 CNRS and Institut Universitaire de France, France 3 Inserm, France Abstract. How genes contribute to cognition is a perennial question for psychologists and geneticists. In the early 21st century, familial studies, including twin studies, supported the theory that genetic variations contribute to differences in cognition, but have been of little practical use to clinical and educational practitioners as no individual predictions can be made using such data; heritability cannot predict the impact of environmental factors or intervention programs. With the sequencing of animal genomes and the development of molecular genetics, new methodologies have been developed: gene targeting (replacing a functional gene with a neutral gene by homologous recombination), transgenesis (overexpressing one gene or a set of genes from one species in another species), and genome-wide scans and quantitative trait loci mapping (a strategy for identifying chromosomal regions involved in complex traits). Association studies can be performed to find associations between allelic forms and variations in IQ. Genes linked to ‘‘normal’’ variations in cognition have been detected but for the moment such discoveries have had no direct applications in a clinical setting; the number of genes identified as being linked to intellectual impairment has increased rapidly. Links have been reported between chromosomal deletions and triplications and behavioral phenotypes. The identification of mechanisms involved in genetic diseases should have long-term consequences on educational and/or psychological support programs as well as on health care. Psychologists need to keep up to date on advances in research establishing relationships between genetics and intellectual disability and will thus be able to refer children with cognitive impairments to specialized care services. Keywords: intelligence, genetics, heritability, twins, mouse For social and political reasons, the relationship between genes and intelligence, or genes and cognition has been a highly controversial issue and the debate is still raging. We do not intend to cover the full history of the controversy which no doubt began with ancient Greek philosophers, gained momentum in the 19th century, and reached in the seventies of the last century. See, for example, Hirsch (1975), Gould (1981), Roubertoux and Capron (1990), and Roubertoux (2004). Looking beyond the scientific issues and possible controversies, the question now is how can psychologists use recent discoveries in this field of research in their daily practice?
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