Study Identifies Genetic Links to Dyslexia

A study titled: “Discovery of 42 genome-wide significant loci associated with dyslexia” was posted on Nature. It was published on October 20, 2022. There are many scientists and groups who contributed to it.

The Abstract states: Reading and writing are crucial life skills but roughly one in ten children are affected by dyslexia, which can persist into adulthood. Family studies of dyslexia suggest heritability up to 70%, yet few convincing genetic markers have been found. 

Here we perform a genome-wide association study of 51,800 adults self-reporting a dyslexia diagnosis and 1,087,070 controls and identified 42 independent genome-wide significant loci: 15 genes linked to cognitive ability/educational attainment, and 27 new and potentially more specific to dyslexia. We validated 23 loci (13 new) in independent cohorts of Chinese and European ancestry. 

Genetic etiology of dyslexia was similar between sexes, and genetic covariance with many traits was found, including ambidexterity, but not neuroanatomical measures of language-related circuitry. Dyslexia polygenic scores explained up to 6% of variance in reading traits, and might in future contribute to earlier identification and remediation of dyslexia.

Mayo Clinic explains that dyslexia is a learning disorder that involves difficulty reading due to problems identifying speech sounds and learning how they relate to letters and words (decoding). Also called a reading disability, dyslexia is a result of individual differences in areas of the brain that process language.

Dyslexia is not due to problems with intelligence, hearing or vision. Most children with dyslexia can succeed in school without tutoring or a specialized education program. Emotional support also plays an important role.

According to Mayo Clinic, though there is no cure for dyslexia, early assessment and intervention result in the best outcome. Sometimes dyslexia goes undiagnosed for years and isn’t recognized until adulthood, but its never too late to seek help.

23andMe reported that 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. 23andMe noted that 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, PhD., the lead author of the study, and a researcher at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences.

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 the research. Among those consenting to participate in research were about 51,000 people who reported that they had dyslexia.

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