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Tigra Scientifica: Mother lode of intelligence

New psychology research is giving people another reason to thank Mom. Sorry Dad, but a new study suggests that children inherit and foster intelligence from their mothers.
This new discovery combines information from a paper by Luby and colleagues published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and
research at University Ulm, Germany published in Trends in Genetics. The research suggests that many genes linked to intelligence are located on the X-chromosome and that a maternal relationship can help foster intellect.
Scholars at the University of Ulm, Germany uncovered some surprising results while studying the genes involved in brain damage. The researchers found that many of the genes related to brain ability were located on chromosome X. The X-correlation was especially strong amongst genes related to cognitive abilities.
Since the German researchers were investigating brain damage, this discovery helped explain why intellectual disability is more commonly found in males, who only have one X-chromosome. It also suggests that mothers contribute directly to their son’s intelligence, since men get their only X from Mom.
Females will get an X-chromosome from both parents, but they will often undergo X-inactivation of the paternal chromosome, meaning they will “select”
to inherit the intelligence characteristics from the maternal genes only.
However, genes may not be the only way that mothers contribute to a child’s intelligence. The research by Luby and colleagues also shows that a strong maternal bond can foster a child’s learning abilities. Children with a closer emotional attachment to their mothers are more likely to engage in complex learning games. This suggests that a mother’s support encourages confidence and problem-solving tendencies, which are both important cognitive skills.
Even more impressive, maternal support has been shown to promote specific gene expression, neurogenesis, and promotion of certain brain structures in developing animals.
In humans, a supportive maternal relationship predicts a larger hippocampus, the part of the brain involved in memory and spatial tasks. This correlation has been proven in males and females, showing that mothers contribute significantly to the overall intelligence of both male and female children.
Of course, not all intelligence is inherited, which is something to be considered when interpreting these results. Genes, such as those on the X chromosome,
and external factors, such as the aforementioned maternal support, interact in
complex ways to produce the intricacies of intelligence.
One thing is for sure though, next time you ace an exam here at Clemson, be sure to call home to Mom and say thank you.

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