BioQuakes

AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: intelligence

CRISPR Research into HIV Immunity Might Also Improve Human Cognition

In the quest to genetically master human immunity to HIV, Chinese CRISPR researchers may have come across a way to control human intelligence as well.

Specifically, the trial of deleting the CCR5 gene in twin girls Lulu and Nana has lead to a scarily powerful discovery that scientists are within reach of being able to genetically modify human brain function. Scientists were initially interested in deleting the CCR5 gene because it codes for a beta chemokine receptor membrane protein which the HIV virus hijacks to enter red blood cells. However, when this alteration was tested on mice embryos in California, the resulting offspring showed evidence of improved mental capacity.

https://pixabay.com/illustrations/dna-genetic-material-helix-proteins-3539309/

After this unexpected result, scientists investigated further how the alteration would impact human function with the twins’ lives in mind. Experiments yielded evidence of improved brain recovery after a stroke and potential greater learning capacity in school. Scientists at UCLA uncovered an alternative role for the CCR5 gene in memory and suppressing the formation of new connections in the brain. The absence of this gene in the human genome would likely make memory formation easier via more efficient neural connections.

Although the mice experiment suggested that CCR5’s deletion would improve mental capacity rather than harm it, scientists cannot be sure how the alteration has impacted Lulu’s and Nana’s cognitive function. Some also fear that this discovery may have been the first Chinese attempt to genetically create superior intelligence, despite their claim to the MIT Technology Review that the true purpose of the study was to investigate HIV immunity. Although the Hong Kong scientists who engineered the twins did not publicly intend to improve human cognition, they confirmed a familiarity with UCLA’s discovered connections between CCR5 and human cognition all throughout their trial.

Are we within reach of a time when we can play with the circuit board of the human genome to raise a person’s IQ? Quite possibly. But only time and research will tell.

Doggone Average

Studies have shown that, when compared to other social hunters and carnivorans (an order including dogs, wolves, bears, lions, and hyenas), dogs are not as exceptionally clever as humans might think. Researchers from the University of Exeter and Canterbury Christ Church University tested dogs in trials against other animals in this order. They set out to prove how “clever” dogs really were.

They found that, in previous tests, dogs were commonly compared to chimpanzees, where they often won (which only added to dogs’ reputations). But, when these researchers tested dogs against other social hunters and carnivorans, dogs did not test so well. In fact, dogs may have been domesticated so much that their instincts are now no longer as refined as their wild counterparts. Wolves, who still must hunt for their next meal, will need more honed instincts to survive. In the end, the results weren’t a disappointment. Instead, they were a social commentary on the expectations people put on their pets.

Czechoslovak Wolf Dog “Luna” Chews on Stick

 

 

Why don’t women see themselves as brilliant?

640px-Kalpana_Chawla,_NASA_photo_portrait_in_orange_suit

Why is the population of women in physics, engineering, music composition, etc. so sparse? It might have to do with current stereotypes.

Up until relatively recently, women were not in the academic work place’ men dominated all of the academic, intelligent, and advanced jobs. However, today, over 50% of molecular biology and 60% of comparative literature degrees go to women. But where are all of the women in political science and philosophy?

Research shows that careers that focus on brilliance tend to have fewer women in it. In other words, jobs that emphasize knowledge you “can’t be taught” are typically filled with men. Sarah-Jane Leslie and Andrei Cimpian became interested in gender representation in fields that focused on talent versus fields that focused on hard work. They surveyed other potential explanations, gender differences at the upper end of the intelligence scale, and how men and women differ in how they think. They hypothesized that women might not be able to work a certain schedule and therefore not have enough time required for certain academic fields, fields which are extremely selective should have more men than women, and men are better at abstract thinking and women are better at emotional understanding. They tested these hypotheses with surveys that ranked reactions to a statement from strongly agree to strongly disagree (Likert scale), collected and compared GRE scores, and included statements that assessed how much participants though thinking abstractly or emotionally was important in their academic field.

Leslie and Cimpian concluded that stereotypes about women (and also African-Americans) undermine their representation in certain jobs because they subconsciously do not feel fit to be in that field. Other factors include schedule flexibility or harassment in the work environment, but above all, it’s all about attitude, not aptitude.

Why do you think women don’t see themselves as brilliant, even though they may be well aware of their intellectual abilities?

https://www.sciencenews.org/blog/scicurious/attitude-not-aptitude-may-contribute-gender-gap?tgt=nr

Fluent in another language? Studies show your brain will likely be stronger than average when you’re old!

Photo by: “Barefoot Liam Stock” on Deviantart.com
Find through “Free to use and share” on Google.com http://barefootliam-stock.deviantart.com/art/Huge-map-book-open-book-82979234

A recent study released by the University of Kentucky in Lexington aimed to better understand why “being fluent in more than one language protects against age-related cognitive diseases.”

Researchers used fMRI’s to compare the brains of monolinguals to life-long bilinguals, “LLBL”, (people fluent in two languages since the age of at least 10)  during various activities. Of the 110 participants, they found that mostly all monolinguals and LLBL preformed the same on tests that required simple memory, however on tests which required them to switch between activities, the older LLBL were much faster and quicker to respond than the older monolinguals.

The researchers explained that the results they saw from the older generation of monolinguals and LLBL during the two main testing categories (simple memory and switching tasks), were about the same to the results of the younger generation that they tested in a different study. They concluded that the older LLBL’s experienced less activation in several frontal brain regions linked with effortful processing, meaning that the “older bilinguals used their brain more efficiently than the older monolinguals“.

The scientists also explained that they are not sure if learning a language later in life will give a person the same cognitive benefits when they are older compared to a person who is a LLBL. They are also unsure if it’s the “knowledge of two languages that leads to benefits in aging or if there is some underlying characteristics that bilinguals have” which allows them to be more neurally efficient.

Although researchers still have a lot to learn about the increased neural efficiency found in bilinguals, this study made a vast contribution to the understanding of “the cognitive advantage of bilinguals at an old age.”

 

Read more at: http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2013/01/08/lifelong-bilinguals-may-have-more-efficient-brains/?hpt=he_bn2

http://brain.oxfordjournals.org/content/122/12/2207.full

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121008082953.htm

 

 

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