Six IQ points smarter? There might be a gene for that

A pair of scientists say the KL-VS gene seems to not only prolong life but also to boost cognitive faculties.

Chris Matyszczyk
2 min read

Klotho-endowed? The Big Bang Theory/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

You know when you meet someone just a little more mentally adept than you are?

You stare at them, listen, and wonder: "How do they do that?"

Let me tell you that the answer may be that while you and I are cloth-eared, they are blessed with healthy doses of klotho.

Klotho is not, though it should be, the name of a character in the next "Star Wars" movie. Instead, it's a protein that enjoys the genetic encoding KL.

As The Economist reports, there's a version of this gene called KL-VS that scientists believe helps combat aging.

Now research performed by two San Francisco-based scientists, Dena Dubal of the University of California, San Francisco, and Lennart Mucke of the Gladstone Institutes, suggests that KL-VS might have other searing properties.

Because they are studying the aging process, Dubal and Mucke wondered whether KL-VS somehow held back the decline in mental abilities as one gets older.

Instead, they found something more startling. Regardless of one's age, it seems that the presence of KL-VS might actually boost IQ by as much as six points.

The researchers worked with 220 people, aged between 52 and 85. They examined their abilities in such areas as language, memory, attention, and visuo-spatial awareness.

They discovered that those who performed best, regardless of their age, enjoyed KL-VS. Moreover, research done by other teams threw up similar conclusions, hence expanding the sample size to 718.

It's true that none of these scientists measured general intelligence, so the idea of the six IQ points difference is their own estimate. However, previously discovered genes that are thought to have an influence on IQ were said to affect it by only half a point.

Though the klotho correlation might be coincidence, the scientists have continued to experiment with mice to see if they can genetically engineer corollaries.

Naturally, those who believe achievement and intelligence are everything will immediately wonder whether a drug could be created to make people smarter.

Indeed, given that one scientist this week said he thought humans aren't intelligent enough to be ready for an alien encounter, some might hope such a drug is developed speedily.

However, life has proved that being intelligent doesn't save one from bad decisions, mistaken judgments, nights in lap-dancing clubs that lead to arrests, and a vast gamut of behavior that might be attributed to the klotho-deficient.