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Curr Biol. 2010 Jan 26;20(2):137-42. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2009.11.067. Epub 2010 Jan 7.

Heritability of the specific cognitive ability of face perception.

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1
State Key Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience and Learning, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China.

Abstract

What makes one person socially insightful but mathematically challenged, and another musically gifted yet devoid of a sense of direction? Individual differences in general cognitive ability are thought to be mediated by "generalist genes" that affect many cognitive abilities similarly without specific genetic influences on particular cognitive abilities [1]. In contrast, we present here evidence for cognitive "specialist genes": monozygotic twins are more similar than dizygotic twins in the specific cognitive ability of face perception. Each of three measures of face-specific processing was heritable, i.e., more correlated in monozygotic than dizygotic twins: face-specific recognition ability, the face-inversion effect [2], and the composite-face effect [3]. Crucially, this effect is due to the heritability of face processing in particular, not to a more general aspect of cognition such as IQ or global attention. Thus, individual differences in at least one specific mental talent are independently heritable. This finding raises the question of what other specific cognitive abilities are independently heritable and may elucidate the mechanisms by which heritable disorders like dyslexia and autism can have highly uneven cognitive profiles in which some mental processes can be selectively impaired while others remain unaffected or even selectively enhanced.

PMID:
20060296
DOI:
10.1016/j.cub.2009.11.067
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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