Researchers from King’s College London have used a genetic scoring technique to predict reading performance throughout school years from DNA alone.
Saskia Selzam and colleagues calculated genetic 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 achievement. They then mapped these scores against reading ability between the ages of 7 and 14.
The report, published in Scientific Studies of Reading, found there was a correlation between children’s DNA and their reading ability. Genetic scores were found to explain up to five percent of the differences between children in their reading ability. The children with the highest and lowest genetic scores had reading abilities almost two years apart. This association remained significant even after accounting for cognitive ability and family socioeconomic status.
The researchers note that although five percent may seem a relatively small amount, it is substantial compared to other results related to reading. For example, gender differences have been found to explain less than one percent of the differences between children in reading ability. The use of genetic scoring in education as an early screening tool to help identify those at particular genetic risk of reading problems, they propose, could lead to tailored intervention and prevention according to an individual child’s needs.
Source: Selzam, S., Dale, P. S., Wagner, R. K., DeFries, J. C., Cederlöf, M., O’Reilly, P. F., … Plomin, R. (2017). Genome-wide polygenic scores predict reading performance throughout the school years. Scientific Studies of Reading, 21(4), 334–349.