Skills in maths and reading shared by same genes

2014-07-09 18:34


Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Paris - A common set of genes play a role in learning to read and do maths, with tiny variants influencing a child's skills in these tasks, according to a study published on Tuesday.

But this ability is not just gene-driven, as schooling and help from parents are also vital contributors, its authors cautioned.

Early numeracy and literacy are known to run in some families but the genes that affect this have until now been mainly unknown.

Scientists delved into a data pool called the Twins Early Development Study, which enrolled 12-year-olds from nearly 2 800 British families.

The team compared twins and unrelated children to see how they performed in tests for maths and reading comprehension and fluency, and then matched the children's genomes.

Between 10% and half of the genes involved in reading were also involved in maths, they found.

Tiny variants in these shared genes influence skill level, the study said.

"Similar collections of subtle DNA differences are important for reading and maths," said Oliver Davis, a geneticist at University College London.

"However, it's also clear just how important our life experience is in making us better at one or the other.

"It's this complex interplay of nature and nurture as we grow up that shapes who we are."

Numeracy genes

Fellow researcher Robert Plomin, a professor at King's College London, said the study was the first to estimate the impact from DNA alone on learning ability.

But, he stressed, the genetic variants that were identified were not specific "literacy or numeracy" genes.

Instead, they formed part of a more complex mechanism in which many genes each exercised a small, but combined, effect on learning ability.

"Children differ genetically in how easy or difficult they find learning, and we need to recognise and respect these individual differences," said Plomin.

"Finding such strong genetic influence does not mean that there is nothing we can do if a child finds learning difficult," he said.

"Heritability does not imply that anything is set in stone - it just means it may take more effort from parents, schools and teachers to bring the child up to speed."

The paper is published in the journal Nature Communications.

Read more on:    nature communications  |  dna  |  education

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.