Scientists Predict Reading Ability From DNA Analysis Alone

Science Daily, March 29, 2017

The study, published today in Scientific Studies of Reading, shows that a genetic score comprising around 20,000 of DNA variants explains five per cent of the differences between children’s reading performance. Students with the highest and lowest genetic scores differed by a whole two years in their reading performance.

These findings highlight the potential of using genetic scores to predict strengths and weaknesses in children’s learning abilities. According to the study authors, these scores could one day be used to identify and tackle reading difficulties early, rather than waiting until children develop these problems at school.

The researchers calculated genetic scores (also called polygenic scores) for educational achievement in 5,825 individuals from the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS) based on genetic variants identified to be important for educational attainment. They then mapped these scores against reading ability between the ages of seven and 14.

Genetic scores were found to explain up to five per cent of the differences between children in their reading ability. This association remained significant even after accounting for cognitive ability and family socio-economic status.

The study authors note that although five per cent may seem a relatively small amount, this is substantial compared to other results related to reading. For example, gender differences have been found to explain less than one per cent of the differences between children in reading ability.

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