When IQ test results are not as high as you had hoped, you may have a scientific excuse for you and members of your family.
The so-called Stupidity Virus that attacks human DNA may help explain why some IQ scores do not match expectations. No joke.
John Hopkins School of Medicine and University of Nebraska researchers have discovered traces of an algal virus. It’s called chlorovirus ATCV-1 and it showed up in throat swabs from healthy volunteers. Scientists say the virus appears to lessen mental capabilities.
The virus may impact attention span, as well as how fast and accurately people process visual information. Those affected with the virus performed about 10 per cent worse on visual processing speed tests. Infected volunteers drew lines connecting numbers more slowly than those who were not infected.
Nebraska researchers who injected the virus into mice got similar results, with the mice finding it harder to get in and out of cages. While the virus was previously known only to appear in algae, researchers have not yet established how the virus comes to infect humans.
Virus Can Impact Cognition
The experiment results show that innocuous micro-organisms we carry can impact cognition and behavior, according to Dr. Robert Yolken, lead investigator, virologist and pediatric infectious disease specialist at the John Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore.
Bacteria and viruses may influence psychology and behavior, which are often attributed to genes passed down by our parents. This particular virus may work by altering the way genes are expressed in parts of the brain carrying memory and other functions.
While the study did not focus on children, consider that when child IQ test scores are lower than you might expect, this virus could be a factor. The 44 per cent of people testing positively for the virus scored seven to nine points lower on their IQ tests.
Slower Visual Processing Linked to Virus
Lower attention spans and spatial awareness were linked to the virus, which showed a statistically significant decrease in the performance on cognitive assessments of visual processing and visual motor speeds, according to the John Hopkins University study.
The slower brain function linked to the virus cuts across differences in education level, race, income and gender.
Previous studies have shown the common herpes simplex virus can slightly decrease cognitive function.
The online journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, features the so-called Stupidity Virus research.