Cognitive genomics: Searching for the genetic roots of neuropsychological functioning

Carrie E. Bearden, David C. Glahn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Objective: Human cognition has long been known to be under substantial genetic control. With the complete mapping of the human genome, genome-wide association studies for many complex traits have proliferated; however, the highly polygenic nature of intelligence has made the identification of the precise genes that influence both global and specific cognitive abilities more difficult than anticipated. Method: Here, we review the latest developments in the genomics of cognition, including a discussion of methodological advances in the genetic analysis of complex traits, and shared genetic contributions to cognitive abilities and neuropsychiatric disorders. Results: A wealth of twin and family studies have provided compelling evidence for a strong heritable component of both global and specific cognitive abilities, and for the existence of "generalist genes" responsible for a large portion of the variance in diverse cognitive abilities. Increasingly sophisticated analytic tools and ever-larger sample sizes are now facilitating the identification of specific genetic and molecular underpinnings of cognitive abilities, leading to optimism regarding possibilities for novel treatments for illnesses related to cognitive function. Conclusions: We conclude with a set of future directions for the field, which will further accelerate discoveries regarding the biological pathways relevant to cognitive abilities. These, in turn, may be further interrogated in order to link biological mechanisms to behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1003-1019
Number of pages17
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Genome-wide association
  • Heritability
  • Polygenic risk
  • Schizophrenia
  • g


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