Air Force

Predictive genetic test for cognitive ability

Analysis of a cheek swab or blood sample compares an individuals’ FTCD gene expression against cognitive models to forecast performance

Medical & Biotechnology

Air Force research psychologist Kevin D. Schmidt has invented a test to predict mental performance from a genetic sample. The patent-pending technology is available via license agreement to companies that would make, use, or sell it commercially.

A simple cheek swab or blood sample could predict your cognitive abilities. (Ewa Urban/Pixabay)

Athletes, soldiers, law enforcement agents, and other professionals require a high level of cognitive ability to perform their duties efficiently. Their working memory, which is the part of an individual’s short-term memory that is concerned with immediate perceptual and linguistic processing, must function at optimal levels.

Allelic association is the prominent theory in determining the genetic influence on phenotypic expression, including that for working memory and cognitive ability. By understanding how genetic influences affect working memory, the measurement and manipulation of cognitive ability may be possible.

Scientific studies have associated the C allele of the rs914246 single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in the formimidoyltransferase cyclodeaminase (FTCD) gene with improved working memory performance in younger people, ages 18 to 27 years. The gene codes for the FTCD enzyme that helps our bodies create amino acid glutamate and vitamin folate, which are neurotransmitters critical for neural plasticity, spatial learning, and overall cognitive ability.

Schmidt’s new tool uses the genetic information from a cheek swab or blood sample to compare a snip of the person’s FTCD gene against a cognitive model that includes data from visual memory tests. Individuals expressing the FTCD genotype have a higher proclivity and aptitude for tasks involving substantial levels of cognition and intellect.

Based on the results of the genetic test, a person could be prescribed dietary supplements of folate or glutamate, cognitive exercises, or an improvement modification of the person’s DNA using the CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technique.

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