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A pair of scientists in California are believed to have discovered a potent genetic cause of cognitive variation. The gene in question is called KL-VS and that gene encodes the protein klotho, which is known to play a role in the aging process. Looking at 220 volunteers aged 52 to 85, researchers assessed faculties of memory, attention, visuo-spatial awareness and language. From these, they constructed a composite measure of cognition. "That measure suggested people with a VS version of the KLgene in their chromosomes had better cognition than those without one."

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If the results of the study are confirmed, its finding could account for as much as 3% of the IQ variation among the individuals in the general population. "A drug that elevates klotho levels, or mimics that protein’s function, might indeed enhance cognition, and there is no obvious reason why such a drug should be restricted to the elderly. If it could be developed everyone—except, maybe, those already in possession of a copy of KL-VS in their genes—might be able to take pills to make themselves a little brighter."

Read more at the Economist