Neural and Genetic Bases for Human Ability Traits

Camila Bonin Pinto, Jannis Bielefeld, Rami Jabakhanji, Diane Reckziegel, James W. Griffith, A. Vania Apkarian*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The judgement of human ability is ubiquitous, from school admissions to job performance reviews. The exact make-up of ability traits, however, is often narrowly defined and lacks a comprehensive basis. We attempt to simplify the spectrum of human ability, similar to how five personality traits are widely believed to describe most personalities. Finding such a basis for human ability would be invaluable since neuropsychiatric disease diagnoses and symptom severity are commonly related to such differences in performance. Here, we identified four underlying ability traits within the National Institutes of Health Toolbox normative data (n = 1, 369): (1) Motor-endurance, (2) Emotional processing, (3) Executive and cognitive function, and (4) Social interaction. We used the Human Connectome Project young adult dataset (n = 778) to show that Motor-endurance and Executive and cognitive function were reliably associated with specific brain functional networks (r2 = 0.305 ± 0.021), and the biological nature of these ability traits was also shown by calculating their heritability (31 and 49%, respectively) from twin data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number609170
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
StatePublished - Dec 16 2020


  • NIH toolbox
  • heritability
  • human ability
  • human connectome project (HCP)
  • neural circuits

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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