Friday, 21 December 2007

British Medical Journal: Origins of Magic

BMJ 2007;335:1299-1301 (22 December), doi:10.1136/bmj.39414.582639.BE

Origins of magic: review of genetic and epigenetic effects.

Sreeram V Ramagopalan, DPhil candidate(1,2),
Marian Knight, senior clinical research fellow(3),
George C Ebers, professor of clinical neurology(1,2),
Julian C Knight, senior research fellow(1)

1 Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, University of Oxford, Oxford OX3 7BN,
2 Department of Clinical Neurology, University of Oxford,
3 National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit, University of Oxford

Correspondence to: J C Knight

Objective: To assess the evidence for a genetic basis to magic.

Design: Literature review.

Setting: Harry Potter novels of J K Rowling.

Participants: Muggles, witches, wizards, and squibs.

Interventions: Limited.

Main outcome measures: Family and twin studies, magical ability, and specific magical skills.

Results: Magic shows strong evidence of heritability, with familial aggregation and concordance in twins. Evidence suggests magical ability to be a quantitative trait. Specific magical skills, notably being able to speak to snakes, predict the future, and change hair colour, all seem heritable.

Conclusions: A multilocus model with a dominant gene for magic might exist, controlled epistatically by one or more loci, possibly recessive in nature. Magical enhancers regulating gene expressionmay be involved, combined with mutations at specific genes implicated in speech and hair colour such as FOXP2 and MCR1.

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