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Predicting educational achievement from DNA

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  • S. Selzam
  • E. Krapohl
  • S. Von Stumm
  • P. F. O'Reilly
  • K. Rimfeld
  • Y. Kovas
  • P. S. Dale
  • J. J. Lee
  • R. Plomin


Publication details

JournalMolecular psychiatry
DateAccepted/In press - 23 May 2016
DateE-pub ahead of print (current) - 19 Jul 2016
Issue number2
Number of pages6
Pages (from-to)267-272
Early online date19/07/16
Original languageEnglish


A genome-wide polygenic score (GPS), derived from a 2013 genome-wide association study (N=127,000), explained 2% of the variance in total years of education (EduYears). In a follow-up study (N=329,000), a new EduYears GPS explains up to 4%. Here, we tested the association between this latest EduYears GPS and educational achievement scores at ages 7, 12 and 16 in an independent sample of 5825 UK individuals. We found that EduYears GPS explained greater amounts of variance in educational achievement over time, up to 9% at age 16, accounting for 15% of the heritable variance. This is the strongest GPS prediction to date for quantitative behavioral traits. Individuals in the highest and lowest GPS septiles differed by a whole school grade at age 16. Furthermore, EduYears GPS was associated with general cognitive ability (∼3.5%) and family socioeconomic status (∼7%). There was no evidence of an interaction between EduYears GPS and family socioeconomic status on educational achievement or on general cognitive ability. These results are a harbinger of future widespread use of GPS to predict genetic risk and resilience in the social and behavioral sciences.

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© The Author(s) 2017.

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