Genetic Engineering Intelligence

In summary: For example, children who are exposed to music, literature, math, and other subjects on a one-on-one basis with accompanying rewards show a development of the alleles associated with high intelligence. So the engineering involved is really on the outside and has to do with teaching methods and tutoring as well as catching children at a young age. Nutrition is also a factor in "turning on" the "brainiac" alleles in human children. No injections of specific whale or spider genes encased in retro-viruses required.
  • #1
dsadsa
15
0
I came across this article a while ago

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/435816.stm

which essentially says that a decade ago researchers in Princeton genetically engineered mice to be smarter (demonstrated by their ability to solve mazes faster and remember objects better).


To what extent can something similar to this be done to humans so as to make our own species more intelligent, given today's technology?
 
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  • #2
There may be promising ways to use neuroscience to increase intelligence... I don't think NR2B likely to be one of them though. There are too many reasons not to want to mess with NMDA...
 
  • #3
What I actually had in mind was that rather than doing something risky like introducing new genes into the human genome we could simply see what alleles are correlated with high intelligence (high IQ test scorers, top researchers in academia, etc.) and then engineer a human who has the optimal combination of alleles (as the statistics dictate). Nothing abnormal should happen except possibly the existence of a human who possesses intellect vastly superior to that of anyone else on the planet.
 
  • #4
If what you want were all that simple, and ethical, then it would have been doable early on and people like the ones in the eugenics movement would have been able to create super-smart folks. Did not happen.

One of the consequences of selecting for one group of traits is the possibility of a hitherto non-problematic recessive trait becoming an issue. Dog breeders have run into this. In the pursuit of 'conformance' to breed standards we now have hip dyplasias in German Sherherds, blindness in Dalmatians, and so on. We could end up with supersmart people who could not grow their own food, for example. :) -- because they could not walk out into the fields.
 
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  • #5
jim mcnamara said:
If what you want were all that simple, and ethical, then it would have been doable early on and people like the ones in the eugenics movement would have been able to create super-smart folks. Did not happen.

One of the consequences of selecting for one group of traits is the possibility of a hitherto non-problematic recessive trait becoming an issue. Dog breeders have run into this. In the pursuit of 'conformance' to breed standards we now have hip dyplasias in German Sherherds, blindness in Dalmatians, and so on. We could end up with supersmart people who could not grow their own food, for example. :) -- because they could not walk out into the fields.
My concern is that there may be some simple things that can be done that are not because of moral reasoning that I do not agree with.

Can't the issue you've mentioned be remedied by performing less manipulation to reduce the risk, and isn't it unlikely to begin with?
 
  • #6
dsadsa said:
What I actually had in mind was that rather than doing something risky like introducing new genes into the human genome we could simply see what alleles are correlated with high intelligence (high IQ test scorers, top researchers in academia, etc.) and then engineer a human who has the optimal combination of alleles (as the statistics dictate). Nothing abnormal should happen except possibly the existence of a human who possesses intellect vastly superior to that of anyone else on the planet.

What we're seeing in the newly revised "head start" program is that children who are exposed to stimuli regarding music, literature, math and other subjects on a one on one basis... with reward initiatives included... are showing development of the alleles associated with high intelligence etc... So the engineering involved is really on the outside and has to do with teaching methods and tutoring as well as catching children at a young age. Nutrition is also a factor in "turning on" the "brainiac" alleles in human children. No injections of specific whale or spider genes encased in retro-viruses required.

Here's an event you may want to attend.

PSYCHOLOGY DEPARTMENT COLLOQUIUM
on Wednesday, 7 March 2007, 3:45pm
Jordan Hall 420:041
http://www-psych.stanford.edu/events_colloquium.html

"Experience Shapes Brain Development and Function"
Helen Neville
University of Oregon
http://bdl.uoregon.edu/Research/research.html

For several years we have employed psychophysics, electrophysiological
(ERP) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques to study the
development and plasticity of the human brain. We have studied deaf
and blind individuals, people who learned their first or second spoken
or signed language at different ages, and children of different ages
and of different cognitive capabilities. Over the course of this
research we have observed that different brain systems and related
functions display markedly different degrees or 'profiles' of
neuroplasticity. Some systems appear quite strongly determined and
are not altered even when experience has been very different. Other
systems are highly modifiable by experience and are dependent on
experience but only during particular time periods ("sensitive
periods"). There are several different sensitive periods, even within
a domain of processing. A third 'plasticity profile' is demonstrated
by those neural systems that remain capable of change by experience
throughout life.

Guided by these findings, we have recently begun a program of research
on the effects of different types of training on brain development and
cognition in typically developing children of different ages. These
studies will contribute to a basic understanding of the nature of
human brain plasticity. In addition, they can contribute information
of practical significance in the design and implementation of
educational programs.

About the Speaker: Helen Neville heads the Brain Development Lab at
the University of Oregon where she does research on a wide range of
questions exploring language processing and neuroplasticity in
monolingual and bilingual children and adults. In the Psychology
Department colloquium this week she'll present some of her recent
studies of brain development, including an intervention with Head
Start children investigating how different types of early training
affect cognition, attention, and language skills.

http://www-csli.stanford.edu/Archive/calendar/2006-2007/msg00025.shtml
 
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  • #7
You can ensure that a chimp has excellent brain development too, it still won't be able to learn anywhere near as well as the average human. Likewise no amount of nurturing will turn the average child into a brilliant one.

Brain development is important and I think most parents do a decent enough job of raising their children in that sense. While there is definitely room for improvement it won't amount to anything close to what I'm suggesting might.
 
  • #8
dsadsa said:
You can ensure that a chimp has excellent brain development too, it still won't be able to learn anywhere near as well as the average human. Likewise no amount of nurturing will turn the average child into a brilliant one.

Brain development is important and I think most parents do a decent enough job of raising their children in that sense. While there is definitely room for improvement it won't amount to anything close to what I'm suggesting might.

Do you have any proof of what you're suggesting?
 
  • #9
Can you state what it is you want proof of explicitly? There's more than one thing you could be referring to..
 
  • #10
dsadsa said:
Can you state what it is you want proof of explicitly? There's more than one thing you could be referring to..

Let me put it this way...

you said

it won't amount to anything close to what I'm suggesting might.

You are suggesting what procedure? And what proof do you have that this procedure will raise the IQ or the intelligence of humans in general?
 
  • #11
baywax said:
Let me put it this way...

you said



You are suggesting what procedure? And what proof do you have that this procedure will raise the IQ or the intelligence of humans in general?

The procedure is mentioned in the third post of this thread. I don't really understand what there is to prove, its been shown that intelligence is strongly dictated by genetics and there have been genes correlated with high IQ scores and other indications of high intelligence. Its natural to conclude that these genes affect the functioning of the brain in some positive way and that a person with these genes will be more intelligent.
 
  • #12
dsadsa said:
The procedure is mentioned in the third post of this thread. I don't really understand what there is to prove, its been shown that intelligence is strongly dictated by genetics and there have been genes correlated with high IQ scores and other indications of high intelligence. Its natural to conclude that these genes affect the functioning of the brain in some positive way and that a person with these genes will be more intelligent.

Yes, thank you.

You say

What I actually had in mind was that rather than doing something risky like introducing new genes into the human genome we could simply see what alleles are correlated with high intelligence (high IQ test scorers, top researchers in academia, etc.) and then engineer a human who has the optimal combination of alleles (as the statistics dictate).

"Introducing new genes" to the human population is easy to suggest. Are you going to lace everyones cornflakes with them? What is the procedure? What I am pointing out, with interventionist programs like Head Start, is that there is a more practical, proven and less complicated way of raising levels of intellect in a population. Plus... the head start program is proven to have raised the number and activity of alleles specific to higher intelligence in %100 of those who received the program. So far I haven't seen proof that genetic engineering can do the same. And that's what I'm asking you to show us. Thanks.
 
  • #13
baywax said:
Yes, thank you.

You say



"Introducing new genes" to the human population is easy to suggest. Are you going to lace everyones cornflakes with them? What is the procedure? What I am pointing out, with interventionist programs like Head Start, is that there is a more practical, proven and less complicated way of raising levels of intellect in a population. Plus... the head start program is proven to have raised the number and activity of alleles specific to higher intelligence in %100 of those who received the program. So far I haven't seen proof that genetic engineering can do the same. And that's what I'm asking you to show us. Thanks.

I already explained why I'm not interested in Head Start and it is really not relevant to this thread. The article I linked to in my first post is an example of how genetic engineering can do more than 'environmental engineering'. You can look into the procedure yourself.
 
  • #14
dsadsa said:
I already explained why I'm not interested in Head Start and it is really not relevant to this thread. The article I linked to in my first post is an example of how genetic engineering can do more than 'environmental engineering'. You can look into the procedure yourself.

You mean the article that states it "may be possible":

But the scientists believe their results show that one day it may be possible to boost human intelligence.

Side effects

However, Dr Tim Bliss, head of neurophysiology at the National Institute for Medical Research in London, said: "When you insert a gene at random into the genome you don't know what might happen. These animals seem to be OK, but there might be all sorts of hidden down sides to having this extra protein.

He's right about that. The interactions between genes are hugely complex and never as easy to predict as one might imagine.

This kind of intervention, if its ever going to be effective at all, is a long way off. If education, nurturing and nutrition etc... are neglected in the mean time there will probably be even less chance of it happening in the future.

I like the idea of a gene therapy for dementia mind you. These patients are mostly gone as it is, so any attempts to bring them back into a more cognizant state of mind would, no doubt, be welcomed. Thank you.
 
  • #15
baywax said:
You mean the article that states it "may be possible":



He's right about that. The interactions between genes are hugely complex and never as easy to predict as one might imagine.

This kind of intervention, if its ever going to be effective at all, is a long way off. If education, nurturing and nutrition etc... are neglected in the mean time there will probably be even less chance of it happening in the future.

I like the idea of a gene therapy for dementia mind you. These patients are mostly gone as it is, so any attempts to bring them back into a more cognizant state of mind would, no doubt, be welcomed. Thank you.

Good, now read post #3.
 
  • #16
dsadsa said:
Good, now read post #3.

I think I'll wait for the movie.
 
  • #17
So, ever hear of taurine's effects on cognition, memory, and preservation of both at old age, on mice?
 
  • #18
Nope.
 
  • #19
i can only speak from an american perspective on this. i don't completely agree with your concept of 'no amount of nurturing will turn the average child into a brilliant one'. the reason i don't agree is that here in america there are so many things working against kids.

first, most parents really have no education in nutrition, so as the child grows up they are forced to learn with a brain made out of McCheeseburgers. you are quite literally what you eat. most people consume incredible amounts of refined table salt which often contains anti-caking agents, some of which are aluminum based (which has a possible link to alzheimers). when i read that it made a lot of sense to me. everyone is always complaining about their memory now days, and what is in almost everything and everyones diet? "salt". since moving to sea salt i have noticed an improvement in my own memory, and now when i come across refined salt my body reacts to it in a toxic way. this is all my own speculation, but i wouldn't be surprised if this is validated one day. i won't even go into the thousands of chemical additives that we consume and their possible effects.

moving on.. the next big strike against children is our public school system. the curriculum is pretty sad and most of the teachers are nothing but drones working from the textbook with no real passion for the subject. so how can the children really get into it?

third, just like "you are what you eat" "you are what you think" and there are so many distractions polluting minds today. trash tv and video games to name the big ones. the more trash you fill your mind with, the less clearly you can focus on the good stuff. i know this first hand. people like mozart grew up with parents that didnt allow distractions and kept them focused on something. this in combination with a passion for music and perhaps above average dexterity is what i think generates a 'child prodigy'. calling him a musical genius is purely subjective as i don't personally care for his music so i would never define him as such. genetics don't have much to do with it.

i could go on and on with those three points but i think that should be clear enough. so what we are left with are the few people blessed with really smart parents. i think it has more to do with how they raise their children and what information they pass on and in what manner, rather than the genes they pass on. also, i think a big part of it is what bad genes arent being passed on. blah blah blah, I am done ;p
 
  • #20
Those are all super idealistic points of view. Furthermore, America is anything but bad for kids; we have an education system, the ability to feed our people, and a way to keep our people entertained. Despite how much you dislike entertainment in anything beyond "fruitful endeavors", I want to disagree with you on how its trivial. I grew up on video games, furthermore, most of the PhD students I see, grew up on video games. I know for a fact that the people struggling in my science classes haven't played as much video games as I have (I can brag about getting 20 hours into a game after a slow weekend). The reason is that video games, and other forms of entertainment, are intellectually stimulating. Infact, I'd like to say that playing something like Valkyrie Profile is more intellectually stimulating than general chemistry. It's video games that thought me trial and error learning, perseverance, and problem solving; not some jerk pontificating passionately about a subject in front of me in a classroom environment.
 
  • #21
The statement 'no amount of nurturing can turn the average child into a brilliant one' can only be completely incorrect if genetics plays no role at all. Otherwise it depends on how lenient one is as to what they regard as brilliant, so there's really no sense in disagreeing with it until we've established a benchmark for brilliance.

In any case I doubt that one could just adopt an average child and nurture him/her into http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kim_Ung-yong successfully.

I can relate to kingdomof's being taught to think by video games. However, everything in the previous two posts consists of anecdotal evidence and I don't think we really know how much an adult's brain development is affected by how they spent their time as a child.

If you're not aware of the twin studies you should look into them since they provide empirical evidence as to how much genes affect intelligence along with many other personality traits. And while it renders a surprisingly high percentage it still doesn't fully characterize the difference between someone well educated and someone who can simply think and learn more proficiently.
 
  • #22
kingdomof, my point was that there are surely ways to enhance intelligence through life style as opposed to genetic enhancement. I've probably played video games more than you and more than anyone ever should. i understand that there are a few gains, but the point is that its not real world experience. your mind is recording billions of images that it can never use to cross reference with things in the real world. the mind does have its limit to capacity and video games are the quickest way to fill it with trash. my point there is that, wouldn't it have been better if we had learned "trial and error learning, perseverance, and problem solving" through things like building or raising crops? if you can't see the logic in that, this will become a circular debate to no where.

dsadsa, the government has been working on genetic intelligence for years. they have to be 10 steps ahead of the public, so that a natural genius doesn't come up with something that they are unprepared to contain. this isn't speculation by the way. within the next 10 years all of this will be forced to surface otherwise chaos will ensue and the powers that be won't have their power anymore.
 
  • #23
stochastic said:
dsadsa, the government has been working on genetic intelligence for years. they have to be 10 steps ahead of the public, so that a natural genius doesn't come up with something that they are unprepared to contain. this isn't speculation by the way. within the next 10 years all of this will be forced to surface otherwise chaos will ensue and the powers that be won't have their power anymore.

No references?

Here's a picture of some cheese that was brought back by the Apollo crew that didn't go to the moon.

http://www.icewaterpictures.com/cheese.jpg
 
  • #24
lol... the reference police strike again. "this isn't speculation by the way" is all I am allowed to say. are you really so naive to think there would be a reference i could give you? if i didnt know this to be a fact, i would say logic is my reference.
 
  • #25
stochastic said:
lol... the reference police strike again. "this isn't speculation by the way" is all I am allowed to say. are you really so naive to think there would be a reference i could give you? if i didnt know this to be a fact, i would say logic is my reference.

I think the philosophy and criteria are that when in Rome, or in this case, when at PhysicsForums.com, one does as the PFers do. And I have to admit, the discipline involved in backing up one's statements actually leads to a wider, and more satisfying understanding of the topic one professes to know something about. The further requirement is that the papers sited must be published because they/it have/has been deemed worthy of publishing through review by the peers of the publisher. Thanks!
 
  • #26
well in this case, stating my source is crossing a line. i will refrain from posting statements and stick to questions on this forum.
 
  • #27
stochastic said:
well in this case, stating my source is crossing a line. i will refrain from posting statements and stick to questions on this forum.

Asking questions has really worked well for me here.
 
  • #28
stochastic said:
dsadsa, the government has been working on genetic intelligence for years. they have to be 10 steps ahead of the public, so that a natural genius doesn't come up with something that they are unprepared to contain. this isn't speculation by the way. within the next 10 years all of this will be forced to surface otherwise chaos will ensue and the powers that be won't have their power anymore.

When claiming something that's not purely speculation, one would usually produces some form of evidence or at least a better line of reasoning than what was given.

I'm still convinced that it might be the case that we have all the technology necessary, or close to it and the only reason this hasn't been pursued is that those who happen to be in favor of it are either too lazy/unmotivated, too fearful of prosecution, or too selfish to risk compromising personal standing in general.
 
  • #29
dsadsa said:
To what extent can something similar to this be done to humans so as to make our own species more intelligent, given today's technology?

It depends on what exactly you have in mind with the term "done". It is quite easy to change the genetics of a developing life form than one that has already developed. With our current level of technology we would well be able to change the genetics of a blastocyst and thus create a (likely) more intelligent human. The equivalent procedure for an adult would be much more difficult. Genetic therapy is a frontier science right now.

However, it is important to recognize that our technology isn't holding us back. Our knowledge is restraining such advances. We simply don't know enough about how genes affect intelligence, what genes are responsible and what those particular genes are doing. In fact, there is hardly a consensus about what exactly intelligence is, and how it can be defined. One of the reasons for this is that the brain is capable of feats of intuition and understanding in seemingly unrelated realms (i.e. naturalistic intelligence vs interpersonal intelligence). Cognition is a very complex operation; an integration of many different functions. Once neuroscience unveils the mechanisms that produce these functions, we can begin to look for the genes that produce those mechanisms.
 
  • #30
Cognition said:
It depends on what exactly you have in mind with the term "done". It is quite easy to change the genetics of a developing life form than one that has already developed. With our current level of technology we would well be able to change the genetics of a blastocyst and thus create a (likely) more intelligent human. The equivalent procedure for an adult would be much more difficult. Genetic therapy is a frontier science right now.

However, it is important to recognize that our technology isn't holding us back. Our knowledge is restraining such advances. We simply don't know enough about how genes affect intelligence, what genes are responsible and what those particular genes are doing. In fact, there is hardly a consensus about what exactly intelligence is, and how it can be defined. One of the reasons for this is that the brain is capable of feats of intuition and understanding in seemingly unrelated realms (i.e. naturalistic intelligence vs interpersonal intelligence). Cognition is a very complex operation; an integration of many different functions. Once neuroscience unveils the mechanisms that produce these functions, we can begin to look for the genes that produce those mechanisms.

For our purposes, let's define define intelligence to be proficiency in academic research or the ability to score high on an IQ test. I'm suggesting that we not concern ourselves with the function of genes that are correlated with high intelligence and simply produce a human possessing all of them. We already know everything required for this procedure and since you say we have technology, there's nothing 'holding us back'.

Can you please refer me to a reliable source as to how this works? (the technology used to change the genetics of a blastocyst, I'm not interested in this procedure for an adult given its difficulty)
 
  • #31
dsadsa said:
For our purposes, let's define define intelligence to be proficiency in academic research or the ability to score high on an IQ test.

Government enforced sterilization of people with exceptionally low IQs or an exceptionally poor proficiency in academic research. Couple that policy with forcing people that have exceptionally high IQs or great proficiency in academic research to have high numbers of offspring. This method could be used to enhance/restrict any genetically influenced trait within a population, and probably within a relatively short amount of time. Basically treat people like cattle. Contemporary views on morality and ethics would prevent this from being a popular policy. This would not necessarily produce a better human. It would produce a human that is better at standardized tests or academic research. And that likes Star Trek - a lot.
 
  • #32
mplayer said:
Government enforced sterilization of people with exceptionally low IQs or an exceptionally poor proficiency in academic research. Couple that policy with forcing people that have exceptionally high IQs or great proficiency in academic research to have high numbers of offspring. This method could be used to enhance/restrict any genetically influenced trait within a population, and probably within a relatively short amount of time. Basically treat people like cattle. Contemporary views on morality and ethics would prevent this from being a popular policy. This would not necessarily produce a better human. It would produce a human that is better at standardized tests or academic research. And that likes Star Trek - a lot.

I've suggested nothing of the sort. I'm not interested in taking any freedom's away from people. Selective breeding isn't that effective anyway.

The definition was not meant to be a perfect one, it was only meant to demonstrate that we could come up with one. If you think some trait (like scoring high on an IQ test) is associated with being intelligent, then you can easily check to see what genes are correlated with that trait.
 
  • #33
dsadsa said:
For our purposes, let's define define intelligence to be proficiency in academic research or the ability to score high on an IQ test. I'm suggesting that we not concern ourselves with the function of genes that are correlated with high intelligence and simply produce a human possessing all of them. We already know everything required for this procedure and since you say we have technology, there's nothing 'holding us back'.

Can you please refer me to a reliable source as to how this works? (the technology used to change the genetics of a blastocyst, I'm not interested in this procedure for an adult given its difficulty)

The thing is, we don't know what genes are actually contributing to the cognitive processes that manifest themselves as observable intelligence. There are just tons and tons of genes that impart function in the brain. What scientists have been trying to do is look for genes common to people with high intelligence. This hasn't yet yielded much success, most likely because high intelligence is a combination between certain neurotransmitter levels, physical brain structure (spatial relationships of neurons, physical formation of neural bodies), and experience as well. These relationships are so complex that it is unlikely a few genes given to any person will make them highly intelligent.

So far there is a small number of genes identified that correlate to high intelligence. If you implant these genes into another person, would they become more intelligent? Or would they just get tumors because their other brain genes are not compatible? I don't know. The reason I believe understanding the actual neurofunctionality of intelligence is so important is because it will tell us exactly what genes to modify.

This is how genetic therapy works:

http://www.ornl.gov/sci/techresources/Human_Genome/medicine/genetherapy.shtml
 
  • #34
As for NR2B, it is unknown if it performs a similar function in humans. Humans have evolved quite distantly from mice, and we have been given a lot of time time find different uses for the same gene.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6SYR-4G4PBYR-1&_user=10&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=be58337239176428bea5d5943a801213
 
  • #35
It appears you're right - it seems that the majority of genes that affect intelligence work in combination making the choice of which genes to select less than trivial. Still, the problem is reduced to collecting data and statistical analysis.
 

Related to Genetic Engineering Intelligence

What is genetic engineering intelligence?

Genetic engineering intelligence is the process of manipulating an organism's genetic material in order to improve or enhance its cognitive abilities.

How does genetic engineering intelligence work?

Genetic engineering intelligence works by altering the DNA of an organism, either by inserting new genes or modifying existing ones. This can lead to changes in the organism's brain structure and function, resulting in improved cognitive abilities.

What are the potential benefits of genetic engineering intelligence?

The potential benefits of genetic engineering intelligence include improved memory, learning abilities, problem-solving skills, and overall intelligence. It could also potentially help treat neurological disorders and improve the quality of life for individuals with cognitive impairments.

Are there any ethical concerns surrounding genetic engineering intelligence?

Yes, there are ethical concerns surrounding genetic engineering intelligence. Some people argue that it is playing with nature and could have unforeseen consequences. Others are concerned about the potential for unequal distribution of enhanced intelligence and the impact it could have on society.

What are the current limitations of genetic engineering intelligence?

Currently, the technology for genetic engineering intelligence is still in its early stages and there is much we do not yet understand about the complexities of the brain. There are also ethical and safety concerns that need to be addressed before it can be widely implemented. Additionally, there is a lack of regulation and oversight in this field, which could lead to misuse or unintended consequences.

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