News: Dyslexia genes identified by Scottish-led study
Posted 25 October, 2022 by Jennifer Drummond
Scientists have for the first time pinpointed a number of genes that are reliably associated with dyslexia.
The researchers say their findings will aid understanding of the biology behind why some children struggle to read or spell.
First recognised in the 1870s, a definition was not reached until the 1960s. Now, dyslexia is typically given as a diagnosis if reading and spelling abilities are poor and much lower than a person’s other academic skills or cognitive abilities.
According to Dyslexia Scotland one in 10 children and adults has dyslexia in Scotland.
Dyslexia is known to run in families but, until now, little was known about the specific gene that increase the risk of developing it.
The most recent study, led by the University of Edinburgh, is the largest genetic study of dyslexia to date.
Researched tested the association between millions of genetic variants with dyslexia status and found 42 significant variants.
Some of these are associated with other neurodevelopment conditions, such as language delay, and with thinking skills. Many, however, are novel and could represent genes that more specifically associate with processes essential for learning to read.
Many of the genes associated with dyslexia are also associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). A much smaller overlap of genes associated with dyslexia was found for psychiatric, lifestyle and health conditions.
Researchers say they were able to predict how well children and adults from four other research studies can read and spell sing the genetic information from the study. However, these would not be accurate enough for diagnostic use.
Lead researcher Dr Michelle Luciano from the University of Edinburgh’s School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences said:
“Previous work suggested some brain structures may be altered in people with dyslexia, but we did not find evidence that genes explain this. Our results also suggest that dyslexia is very closely genetically related to performance on reading and spelling tests, reinforcing the importance of standardised testing in identifying dyslexia.”
The study, led by the University of Edinburgh, was done in partnership with Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics (Netherlands), QMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute (Australia) and US company, 23 and Me Inc.