Learning abilities and disabilities: Generalist genes in early adolescence

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction. The new view of cognitive neuropsychology that considers not just case studies of rare severe disorders but also common disorders, as well as normal variation and quantitative traits, is more amenable to recent advances in molecular genetics, such as genome-wide association studies, and advances in quantitative genetics, such as multivariate genetic analysis. A surprising finding emerging from multivariate quantitative genetic studies across diverse learning abilities is that most genetic influences are shared: they are generalist, rather than specialist. Methods We exploited widespread access to inexpensive and fast Internet connections in the United Kingdom to assess over 5000 pairs of 12-year-old twins from the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS) on four distinct batteries: reading, mathematics, general cognitive ability (g) and, for the first time, language. Results. Genetic correlations remain high among all of the measured abilities, with language as highly correlated genetically with g as reading and mathematics. Conclusions. Despite developmental upheaval, generalist genes remain important into early adolescence, suggesting optimal strategies for molecular genetic studies seeking to identify the genes of small effect that influence learning abilities and disabilities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)312-331
Number of pages20
JournalCognitive Neuropsychiatry
Issue number4-5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2009


  • Adolescence
  • Development
  • Genetics
  • Intelligence
  • Language
  • Learning ability
  • Mathematics
  • Reading
  • Twins


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