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Researchers Explore the Genetics of Dyslexia

By: NeuroNet

Dyslexia is a major cause of reading failure in school, and is one of the most common learning disabilities in schoolchildren in the U.S. In fact, about 20% of the U.S. population, or 1 in every 5 people, has been identified as dyslexic.

Early detection and intervention of dyslexia can help children keep-up in school, as well as minimize the negative effects of dyslexia. Researchers have begun to explore neuroimaging techniques to gain better insights into the reading and language centers of the brain and the role genetics play in dyslexia.

A current review, published in the journal Molecular Genetics and Metabolism, highlighted new neuroimaging studies of dyslexia and the mechanisms that underlie this prevalent disorder. Neuroimaging techniques have revealed the structural, connectivity, and functional workings into the brain’s reading and language abilities. These studies have shown strong differences between individuals with dyslexia compared to typically developing individuals.

Individuals with dyslexia display differences in their gray matter density and in their white matter connectivity. In addition to structural differences in the brain, researchers are beginning to identify gene-specific, location-specific dysfunctions that are related to dyslexia. These are also referred to as “brain gene expressions.” Pairing this type of information with imaging data can aid researchers in identifying where risk genes normally function, and the potential risk for family members inheriting this gene.

Current studies are combing various approaches and methods, such as behavioral, genetic, and imaging data, to further understand the brain regions that are associated with gene-specific effects of dyslexia. To date, there remains an incomplete view of the biological mechanisms underlying dyslexia. But, much progress has been made into identifying impairments that may contribute to the deficits observed in dyslexia, which will hopefully help with early detection and therapeutic interventions.

Journal reference:?Eicher, John D., and Jeffrey R. Gruen. 2013. “Imaging-Genetics in Dyslexia: Connecting Risk Genetic Variants to Brain Neuroimaging and Ultimately to Reading Impairments.” Molecular Genetics and Metabolism.

Photo credit:?The Noun Project


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