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GENETICS AND DYSLEXIA

Development before birth

Recent research suggests that the neurological differences that could cause dyslexia may be established as the baby develops in its mother's womb.  The brain starts to develop in the very early weeks of pregnancy and millions of neural connections are made.  As time goes on some of these connections are switched off but, it seems that in dyslexics, this switching off process is incomplete or imperfect, leaving more neural connections than is required.  Which means that the dyslexic brain may be less specifically wired for some tasks.  This line of research is still in its very early stages.

 

However, different branches of science are converging with ideas about dyslexia:

     It affects literacy, but also many other tasks

     It is present probably before birth

     It runs in families

 

Research is showing that there is a genetic cause.  Dyslexia is a 'complex trait'. Simply put, this means that there is more than one gene involved. It might be a 'cluster of traits'.  We know that not everyone has the same difficulties.  No two dyslexic people are the same – they have a different cluster of difficulties and strengths.

 

Chromosomes are present in every cell in our bodies.  Humans have 46 of them. Genes are located on the chromosomes.  You can think of genes as patterns that the cells use to do their work.  To date, key locations on several chromosomes are implicated in dyslexia. Work is in its early stages. You have probably heard about the Mapping of the Human Genome. This is an international project that has succeeded in identifying all the genes that make up human beings.  It has made a lot of genetic research much easier. We expect to see more ideas coming from this branch of science in the future.

 

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