Our learning abilities depend both on genetics and environment. Most abilities run in families but the complex system of genes affecting these abilities is largely unknown. However, scientists from University of Oxford and King’s College London have shown a link between mathematical and learning abilities of a child. They have discovered that about half the genes that influence how well a child can read also influences their mathematical abilities.
The study used the data from the twins early study to analyze the influence of genetics on reading and mathematics performance of 12 year old children from nearly 2,800 British families.
Twins and unrelated children were tested for reading comprehension and fluency and answered mathematical questions based on UK national curriculum. The results from these tests were combined with DNA data, showing a substantial overlap in the genetic variants that influence mathematics and reading.
According to the researchers, results were deduced using two observations in this experiment. First by the comparison of similarities in twins DNA and second by comparison of minute differences in their DNA. Both of these observations showed that similar collections of subtle DNA differences are important for reading and math.
This was the first ever experiment of its kind showing the genetic influence on learning ability using DNA alone. It shows the genetic influence on very complex traits like learning abilities and the effects of very small differences in DNA, everybody differs in how easy or difficult they find learning and that difference comes from these small variations in our DNA.
But the importance of environmental influences cannot be ignored, it’s the complex interplay of nature and nurture that shapes who we become.
- Reference: The correlation between reading and mathematics ability at age twelve has a substantial genetic component [Nature]
- Source: UCL
- Image: Lucélia Ribeiro via Developmental Mommy