Monday, February 18, 2013

Beijing Genomics Institute's attempt to find genetic basis of IQ

From an essay by Gautam Naik, in The Wall Street Journal:
At the Hong Kong facility, more than 100 powerful gene-sequencing machines are deciphering about 2,200 DNA samples, reading off their 3.2 billion chemical base pairs one letter at a time. These are no ordinary DNA samples. Most come from some of America's brightest people—extreme outliers in the intelligence sweepstakes.
The majority of the DNA samples come from people with IQs of 160 or higher. By comparison, average IQ in any population is set at 100. The average Nobel laureate registers at around 145. Only one in every 30,000 people is as smart as most of the participants in the Hong Kong project—and finding them was a quest of its own.
"People have chosen to ignore the genetics of intelligence for a long time," said Mr. Zhao, who hopes to publish his team's initial findings this summer. 
Besides answering a very interesting question about human intelligence that's also controversial in the West (as the article concedes), this whole project is an immense example of the juggernaut that is the Beijing Genomics Institute.  While today's research projects routinely examine a few hundred genomes, if that, the "BGI Intelligence Project" aims to sequence and analyze several thousand.