In China, a research project aims to find the roots of intelligence in our DNA; searching for the supersmart
... In the spring of 2010, a theoretical physicist called Stephen Hsu from the University of Oregon visited BGI. Dr. Hsu was also interested in the genetics of cognitive ability, so the pair joined with other colleagues to launch the BGI intelligence project.
One part of the plan called for shifting to saliva-based DNA samples obtained from mathematically gifted people, including Chinese who had participated in mathematics or science Olympiad training camps.
Another involved the collection of DNA samples from high-IQ individuals from the U.S. and other countries, including those with extremely high SAT scores, and those with a doctorate in physics or math from an elite university. In addition, anyone could enroll via BGI's website if they met the criteria.
The Shenzen government agreed to pay for half the project, and BGI said it would pitch in the other half, says Mr. Zhao.
160 and over: IQ of high-intelligence individuals in the BGI study
Most of the samples so far have come from outside of China. The main source is Dr. Plomin of King's College, who for his own research had collected DNA samples from about 1,600 individuals whose IQs were off the charts. Those samples were obtained through a U.S. project known as the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth, now in its fourth decade.
Dr. Plomin tracked down 1,600 adults who had enrolled as kids in the U.S. project, now based at Vanderbilt University. Their DNA contributions make up the bulk of the BGI samples.
Dr. Hsu embarked on his own marketing drive. When giving science talks at various institutions, including the California Institute of Technology, Taiwan's Academy of Science and Google, GOOG +0.64% he exhorted listeners to sign up for the study.
BGI's website has so far attracted about 500 qualifying volunteers.