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Evidence for specificity of polygenic contributions to attainment in English, maths and science during adolescence

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  • Georgina Donati
  • Iroise Dumontheil
  • Oliver Pain
  • Kathryn Asbury
  • Emma L Meaburn


Publication details

JournalScientific Reports
DateAccepted/In press - 19 Jan 2021
DatePublished (current) - 16 Feb 2021
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)3851
Original languageEnglish


How well one does at school is predictive of a wide range of important cognitive, socioeconomic, and health outcomes. The last few years have shown marked advancement in our understanding of the genetic contributions to, and correlations with, academic attainment. However, there exists a gap in our understanding of the specificity of genetic associations with performance in academic subjects during adolescence, a critical developmental period. To address this, the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children was used to conduct genome-wide association studies of standardised national English (N = 5983), maths (N = 6017) and science (N = 6089) tests. High SNP-based heritabilities (h2SNP) for all subjects were found (41-53%). Further, h2SNP for maths and science remained after removing shared variance between subjects or IQ (N = 3197-5895). One genome-wide significant single nucleotide polymorphism (rs952964, p = 4.86 × 10-8) and four gene-level associations with science attainment (MEF2C, BRINP1, S100A1 and S100A13) were identified. Rs952964 remained significant after removing the variance shared between academic subjects. The findings highlight the benefits of using environmentally homogeneous samples for genetic analyses and indicate that finer-grained phenotyping will help build more specific biological models of variance in learning processes and abilities.

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© The Author(s) 2021

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