Common Genes Link Reading, Mathematical Learning

First Posted: Jul 08, 2014 02:36 PM EDT

No matter what your ACT scores say, a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Oxford and King's College London shows that reading skills are greatly connected to mathematical capabilities. In fact, study findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, found that the same genes responsible for these intellectual abilities are typically linked.

For the study, researchers examined the influence of genetics on the reading and mathematical abilities in 2,800 12-year-old British children. Furthermore, the research team used the United Kingdom's national curriculum to test the children's reading comprehension, fluency and mathematical skills.

Researchers also compared twins and unrelated children. They found that there was quite a significant overlap between both genetic variants in reading and math. They also found that certain genes were linked to better mathematical abilities, in general.

"We looked at this question in two ways, by comparing the similarity of thousands of twins, and by measuring millions of tiny differences in their DNA. Both analyses show that similar collections of subtle DNA differences are important for reading and math. 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," said lead study author Dr. Oliver Davis (UCL Genetics), in a news release.

In other words, different genetics shape on how easy or difficult learning can be. Through a better understanding of the human mind, researchers may be better able to cater to certain learning needs in the future. 

"We're moving into a world where analyzing millions of DNA changes, in thousands of individuals, is a routine tool in helping scientists to understand aspects of human biology," added lead study author from Oxford University, Dr. Chris Spencer. "This study used the technique to help investigate the overlap in the genetic component of reading and math ability in children. Interestingly, the same method can be applied to pretty much any human trait, for example to identify new links between diseases and disorders, or the way in which people respond to treatments."

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