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Role of genetics in prevalence of dyscalculia

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REVIEWED BY NUMBERDYSLEXIA’S EXPERT PANEL ON JULY 05, 2020

Several factors can contribute to the development of Dyscalculia in children. Brain’s chemistry, structure, function, and the environment are a few of the contributing factors. For the longest time, the role of genetics wasn’t considered to be of significant importance in developing Dyscalculia in a child. But with time, it has been established how important can be the role of genetics in the origin of a learning difference in a child. Let’s dive into understanding Dyscalculia genetics.

What role does Genetics play in Dyscalculia?

With several experiments being done, it is a proven fact now that this mathematical disability runs in the family. Members within a family often have a similar tendency towards learning differences. That means if one of the parents has a thinking difference, it may lead to a thinking difference in their child. But, what is important to note here is that this difference can have a different expression in the child from his/her parents. Let us simplify this for you-

Let’s assume that a father has a reading difficulty i.e. Dyslexia, this doesn’t establish that even if his child inherits a difficulty that would be Dyslexia only. The child might inherit a different form of it like mathematical difference i.e. Dyscalculia, or any other form of it.

How does it happen?

Well, several genes are functioning behind it. The individual differences in chromosomes lead to different versions of genes. Now, what you need to understand is that it is not one single gene that can be held responsible for it, but instead, there is a combination of several genes working behind it. These several genes, each with a small yet different effect, combine to the development of Dyscalculia or any other Learning difference in a child.

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Overlapping of several genes is the reason why people with Dyslexia often exhibit Dyscalculia and vice versa. So, genetic overlapping can be the root cause of a child with Dyscalculia portraying Dyslexia or any other learning difference too but it is not the only cause.

What is the inheritance rate of Dyscalculia?

There are variations in the outcomes of various researches. Though the fact is clear and evident that Dyscalculia has a partly genetic root. To know about the inheritance rate of it, the genetic basis for Dyscalculia has been researched thoroughly by researchers. The research has been based on twin studies, sibling analysis, and family pedigree analysis.

According to the research conducted by Shalev and Gross, it was found that nearly half of the siblings of dyscalculic, themselves are dyscalculic.

In research conducted on monozygotic (identical) twins who were raised separately, it was found that the concordance rate for learning difference was 68%.

Is there involvement of any other factor?

Of course yes. Genetics is just one of several factors. Even the various researches conducted on the genetic basis have not shown a 100% inheritance rate of Dyscalculia. This implies two things-

  • It is unlikely to inherit it directly because of the genes overlapping.
  • The concordance rate in twins proves that several other factors influence it along with genes.

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