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Poor in math, reading comprehension? Perhaps, blame the genes

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It’s a common notion that when one is good in numbers, he probably isn’t good with words. However, collaborating scientists from the University of Oxford, King’s College London and University College London claim otherwise.

In a recent study published in the Nature Communications journal, their findings suggest that half of the genes influencing the reading ability of a child are also affecting his mathematics ability. The complex system of genes influencing these traits remains unknown, however.

The scientists came up with the study by using data from the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS) to examine the influence of one’s genes on the mathematics and reading performance of 12 year olds from around 2,800 British families.

The involved twins, along with children unrelated to them, underwent a test for reading fluency and comprehension as well as answered questions on mathematics based on the national curriculum in the UK.

The tests results were merged with DNA data, which showed a considerable overlap in one’s genetic variants influencing reading and mathematics.

“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,” Dr. Oliver Davis of the UCL Genetics says in a statement.

Dr. Davis explains that both analyses indicate similar collections of subtle difference in DNA are vital for math and reading.

“The study does not point to specific genes linked to literacy or numeracy, but rather suggests that genetic influence on complex traits, like learning abilities, and common disorders, like learning disabilities, is caused by many genes of very small effect size,” King’s College London professor Robert Plomin also says in a statement.

Plomin says it's the first time they've estimated the influence of genes on learning ability with the use of DNA alone.

The findings of the study are said to have heightened the comprehension of scientists in terms of how nurture and nature interact, emphasizing that the learning environment of the child plays an important role in the development of his skills in reading and math.

Plomin also reminds that people should recognize, respect and understand the individual differences of children in learning. The study is part of the Wellcome Trust Case-Control Consortium.

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