August 27, 2009

Language and reading problems are linked

A U.S.-led study has found a new candidate gene for specific language impairment disorder by studying genes linked with reading impairment or sound disorders.

Specific language impairment disorder is a developmental language disorder that's not related to or caused by other developmental disorders, hearing loss or acquired brain injury, according to Wikipedia.

A team led by University of Kansas Professor Mabel Rice, in collaboration with University of Nebraska Medical Center Professor Shelley Smith and Javier Gayan of Neocodex in Seville, Spain, said the finding suggests the likelihood of multiple genes contributing to language impairment, some of which also contribute to reading or speech impairment.

The gene identified on chromosome 6 was previously associated with variability in language abilities in a study of children with specific language impairment and their family members, as well as with variability in speech and reading abilities, the researchers said.

We don't understand the biological mechanisms yet but it's important that we have identified the first gene that could be involved across these three different dimensions of development, Rice said. We have come to realize that language really sets the platform for reading to emerge and to thrive. Without a solid language system, it's much harder to get reading going.

The study is reported in the Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders.