The nature and nurture of high IQ: an extended sensitive period for intellectual development

Angela M Brant, Yuko Munakata, Dorret I Boomsma, John C Defries, Claire M A Haworth, Matthew C Keller, Nicholas G Martin, Matthew McGue, Stephen A Petrill, Robert Plomin, Sally J Wadsworth, Margaret J Wright, John K Hewitt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


IQ predicts many measures of life success, as well as trajectories of brain development. Prolonged cortical thickening observed in individuals with high IQ might reflect an extended period of synaptogenesis and high environmental sensitivity or plasticity. We tested this hypothesis by examining the timing of changes in the magnitude of genetic and environmental influences on IQ as a function of IQ score. We found that individuals with high IQ show high environmental influence on IQ into adolescence (resembling younger children), whereas individuals with low IQ show high heritability of IQ in adolescence (resembling adults), a pattern consistent with an extended sensitive period for intellectual development in more-intelligent individuals. The pattern held across a cross-sectional sample of almost 11,000 twin pairs and a longitudinal sample of twins, biological siblings, and adoptive siblings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1487-95
Number of pages9
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2013


  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Development
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child Development
  • Child, Preschool
  • Critical Period (Psychology)
  • Environment
  • Female
  • Gene-Environment Interaction
  • Humans
  • Intelligence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Siblings
  • Social Environment
  • Twins
  • Twins, Dizygotic
  • Twins, Monozygotic
  • Young Adult


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