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Math skills linked to specific genetic variants in children

In a new study published in the journal Genes Brain & Behavior, experts have identified genetic variants that appear to be strongly correlated with math skills in children. The genetic study is one of the first of its kind to focus on mathematics abilities in different categories.

“Mathematical ability is moderately heritable, and it is a complex trait which can be evaluated in several different categories. A few genetic studies have been published on general mathematical ability. However, no genetic study focused on specific mathematical ability categories,” wrote study lead author Liming Zhang of Shaanxi Normal University, and colleagues.

For the investigation, the researchers performed genome-wide association studies involving 1,146 students from Chinese elementary schools. The studies were focused on 11 mathematical ability categories, such as calculation ability, logical reasoning, spatial ability and applied mathematics.

The experts identified seven single nucleotide genetic variants that were strongly linked to math and reasoning abilities. 

Upon further analysis, the researchers found three genes that significantly correlated with three specific mathematical ability categories. For example, variants in LINGO2 were associated with subtraction ability.

According to the researchers, they also found genes or gene sets significantly associated with addition, division, magnitude perception and spatial conception ability.

“The most significant variant associated with mathematical reasoning ability was rs34034296. This single nucleotide polymorphism is located in the desert region of genome. The nearest gene to this locus is CSMD3. Researchers have reported copy number variants (CNVs) of CSMD3 in patients with schizophrenia and autism,” wrote the researchers.

“Autism and developmental dyscalculia are neurodevelopmental disorders, and they have comorbidities. We for the first time show that these genes are directly associated with mathematical ability.”

Study co-author Professor Jingjing Zhao said the results of the research provide evidence that different mathematical abilities may have a different genetic basis. “This study not only refined genome-wide association studies of mathematical ability but also added some population diversity to the literature by testing Chinese children.”

By Chrissy Sexton, Editor

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