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Mol Psychiatry. 2004 Jun;9(6):582-6.

A functional polymorphism in the succinate-semialdehyde dehydrogenase (aldehyde dehydrogenase 5 family, member A1) gene is associated with cognitive ability.

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  • 1Social Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, De Crespigny Park, Denmark Hill, London, UK.


Succinate-semialdehyde dehydrogenase (SSADH) deficiency is a rare cause of learning disability. We have investigated SSADH to assess its contribution to cognitive ability in the general population in both case-control- and family-based analyses. Sequence analysis of SSADH revealed four changes affecting the encoded protein, only one of which had a minor allele whose frequency is even moderately common. We genotyped this functional polymorphism in 197 high-IQ cases, 201 average-IQ controls and 196 parent high-IQ offspring trios. The minor allele was significantly less frequent in high-IQ cases and was significantly less frequently transmitted by parents to high-IQ subjects than chance expectation. A previous study has shown that the minor allele encodes a lower activity enzyme than the major allele. These data suggest that higher SSADH activity is associated with higher intelligence across the general population. The effect is small, with each allele having an effect size translating to about 1.5 IQ points.

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