Predicting reading ability from DNA analysis

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: Genome-wide polygenic scores predict reading performance throughout the school years (March 2017), Scientific Studies of Reading

Children should get active, and stay that way, to improve later cognitive function

Taking part in leisure time physical activity (LTPA) is positively associated with cognitive functioning in the mid-adult years, with the greatest benefits for those people who participate in lifelong (both childhood and adult), intensive LTPA.

In an article published in Psychological Medicine, researchers from King’s College London estimated the association between different LTPA parameters from 11 to 50 years and cognitive functioning in late mid-adulthood. They used data from the UK National Child Development Study (NCDS), a cohort study of children born in 1958, with LTPA data collected from questionnaires.

Source: Leisure-time Physical Activity Over the Life Course and Cognitive Functioning in Late Mid-adult Years: A Cohort-based Investigation (2013),Psychological Medicine, (online, March 2013).