Oct 24, 2022 - Research

Study Identifies Genetic Links to Dyslexia

A team of researchers led by scientists from the University of Edinburgh completed the largest genetic study to date looking at dyslexia and linking the condition to genes associated with neurodevelopment.

Dyslexia is estimated to affect between 5 to 17 percent of the population. It impacts a person’s reading ability and often runs in families.

The new study, published in Nature Genetics, offers more insight into the biological mechanisms behind dyslexia. The study found genetic links between the condition and genes associated with neurodevelopment,. Researchers also identified a genetic link between dyslexia and ambidexterity.  

But the study did not confirm some previous research suggesting a genetic link between dyslexia and changes in brain structure.

“Previous work suggested some brain structures may be altered in people with dyslexia, but we did not find evidence that genes explain this,“ said Michelle Luciano, Ph.D., the lead author and a researcher at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences.

Reading and spelling

Because dyslexia is so closely genetically related to performance on reading and spelling tests, Dr. Luciano called out the need for better-standardized testing as a way to identify individuals with the condition early to help them with reading and writing.

Scientists from the Genetic Language Consortium and from 23andMe contributed to the study. The work relied on data from more than a million 23andMe customers who consented to participate in research. Among those consenting to participate in research were about 51,000 people who reported that they had dyslexia.

In all, researchers identified 42 genetic variants. The strongest of those were genetic variants that were also linked to cognitive ability and educational attainment. Educational attainments is a measure of the number of years in school. The genetic variants associated with dyslexia were also associated with language delay, thinking skills, and academic achievement. The results highlighted how dyslexia and its impact on reading and writing affect some of the essential processes for learning. 

You can see the full study in Nature Genetics.

The researchers also assembled a list of answers to questions on the study, its purpose, and how the genetic study was conducted here.

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