Researchers believe they have identified the genes responsible for dyslexia, a condition that makes it difficult to read or spell for millions of people.
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Australia, the U.S. company 23andMe Inc, and the University of Edinburgh conducted what is considered the largest genetic study of dyslexia to date and published their findings recently in the journal Nature Genetics.
The study found 42 significant genes while analyzing the relationship between millions of genetic variants and dyslexia. Researchers had access to data from 50,000 adults suffering from dyslexia and approximately 1 million adults without the disease.
Some of the genes are major factors in language delay and other critical thinking skills that may play a role in harming an individual’s academic performance. Over 30% of the genetic variants found by scientists were traced back to these cognitive difficulties, with many being associated with the functions that are essential for learning and developing skills.
“Our findings show that common genetic differences have very similar effects in boys and girls, and that there is a genetic link between dyslexia and ambidexterity,” said the study’s lead author, Michelle Luciano, who works at the University of Edinburgh for the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences.
“Our results also suggest that dyslexia is very closely genetically related to performance on reading and spelling tests, reinforcing the importance of standardized testing in identifying dyslexia,” Luciano added.
The genes associated with dyslexia also appear to affect individuals diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, according to the study.
Chinese-speaking participants were also affected by the genetic variants, indicating that the process of reading and writing is not isolated to one language.