News archive 2003
A genetic theory of learning disabilities09 Sep 2003, PR 63/03
Research from the largest study of twins ever conducted in the UK shows that genetic influences on common learning disabilities are not specific to each disorder.
Professor Robert Plomin of the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London today presents evidence on common learning disabilities to the BA Festival of Science at the University of Salford, Greater Manchester.
The Twins Early Development Study (TEDS) compares identical and non-identical twins born in England in 1994-6 and latest findings are from year-long assessments by teachers of reading and maths at age seven.
Researchers found three main reasons that genes involved in common learning disabilities are generalists in three ways. First, genes that affect these disabilities are the same genes responsible for normal variation in learning abilities. Second, genes are not specific to one aspect of a learning disability but are general to many aspects of the disorder. Thirdly, genes affecting one learning disability also affect others.
Professor Plomin says: ‘Although simple genetic anomalies can lead to specific syndromes, most common problems such as language and reading problems are caused by a range of genetic and environmental risk factors. Many of these causal factors overlap in their effects on different disorders.’
Professor Plomin’s talk: Developmental disorders: specific or general, is part of the symposium From Genes to Learning chaired by Professor Margaret Snowling, President of the BA Psychology Section, and running from 9.30-17.00 hrs.
Notes to editors
King’s College London
King’s is one of the oldest and largest colleges of the University of London with some 13,400 undergraduate students and over 5,000 postgraduates in ten schools of study. The College had 24 of its subject-areas awarded the highest rating of 5* and 5 for research quality, demonstrating excellence at an international level. It is in the top group of five universities for research earnings and has an annual turnover of over £300 million and research income from grants and contracts in excess of £90 million (2001-2002).
About the BA
The BA is the UK’s nationwide, open membership organisation dedicated to connecting science with people, so that science and its applications become accessible to all. The BA aims to promote openness about science in society and to engage and inspire people directly with science and technology and their implications. Established in 1831, the BA organises major initiatives across the UK, including the annual BA Festival of Science, National Science Week, programmes of regional and local events, and an extensive programme for young people in schools and colleges.
About the BA Festival of Science
The BA Festival of Science is the UK’s largest science festival, attracting over 300 speakers and around 10,000 visitors and has been taking place since 1831. The BA Festival of Science 2003 takes place from 8-12 September at the University of Salford, Greater Manchester in association with Northwest Science. For further information, visit www.the-ba.net/festivalofscience.
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