Advancing the frontier of cognitive science

BGI Cognitive Genomics is an interdisciplinary research group at BGI, one of the largest genomics institutes in the world. Our focus is human cognition, with emphasis on the use of tools made available by rapid advances in DNA sequencing technology.

We seek to address questions such as:

  • How does the human brain work?
  • How do genes affect cognitive ability?
  • How do genes and environment interact to produce human intelligence and personality?

We are currently recruiting subjects for:

  1. A Gene-Trait Association Study of g. If you are cognitively gifted, we encourage you to participate!
  2. A Genome Wide Association Study of Prosopagnosia (face blindness). If you suspect you may have this condition, see here.


December 2013: WDIST has been converted to a prerelease version of PLINK 1.9.

31 May 2013: Congratulations to Rietveld et al. on their successful educational attainment genome-wide association study.

31 May 2013: We have started the process of returning genetic data to our first round of volunteers. Everyone who was sequenced will be contacted within the next few weeks.

We are also starting public testing of our new bioinformatics tool: WDIST, an increasingly complete rewrite of PLINK 1.07 designed for tomorrow's large datasets, developed by Christopher Chang with support from the NIH-NIDDK's Laboratory of Biological Modeling and others. It uses a streaming strategy to reduce memory requirements, and executes many of PLINK's slowest functions, including identity-by-state/identity-by-descent computation, LD-based pruning of marker sets, and association analysis max(T) permutation tests, over 100x (and sometimes even over 1000x) as quickly. Some newer calculations, such as the GCTA relationship matrix, are also supported. We have developed several novel algorithms, including a fast Fisher's exact test (2x2/2x3) which comfortably handles contingency tables with entries in the millions (try our browser demo!). Software engineers can see more details on our core algorithms page, and download the GPLv3 source code from our GitHub repository.

18 March 2013: We've uploaded video for Steve's February talk at the Michigan State University Cognitive Science Forum. (Slides.)

4 December 2012: We are now collaborating with Robert Plomin and the Genetics of High Cognitive Abilities (GHCA) Consortium.

27 June 2012: Slides for Steve Hsu's recent BGA 2012 talk, "Genetic architecture of intelligence from SNP distance measures", are now available.

5 October 2011: We welcome our new advisor, Steven Pinker, to the team. We've also made a few updates to the FAQ.

25 August 2011: Video for Steve's Google talk is now up.

18 August 2011: The volunteer survey is now live.

17 August 2011: Steve Hsu is giving a talk at Google tomorrow, launching our drive to recruit US participants for the intelligence GWAS. Slides.