Gene-environment interplay in early life cognitive development

Sophie von Stumm*, Radhika Kandaswamy, Jessye Maxwell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Children's differences in early life cognitive development are driven by the interplay of genetic and environmental factors, but identifying replicable gene-environment interactions (GxE) has proven difficult. We systematically tested GxE effects in the prediction of cognitive development from 2 to 4 years, using polygenic scores (PGS) for years spent in education and 39 measures of the home and neighborhood environment. Data came from up to 6973 unrelated individuals from the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS), a UK population-representative cohort. The environmental measures accounted together for 20.6% of the variance in cognitive development, while the PGS accounted for 0.5% (p < .001). We observed substantial gene-environment correlations but found no conclusive evidence for GxE effects. While associations between PGS and cognitive development were weak, genetic and environmental factors had direct and additive (i.e., main effects) rather than interactive influences on early life cognitive development.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101748
Early online date11 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We gratefully acknowledge the ongoing contribution of the participants in the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS) and their families. TEDS has been supported by a program grant from the UK Medical Research Council ( MR/M021475/1 and previously G0901245 ), with additional support from the US National Institutes of Health ( AG046938 ). This project was supported by a Nuffield Foundation award ( EDO/44110 ) to SvS, who is also supported by a British Academy Mid-career Fellowship (2022) and a CRISP Fellowship from the Jacobs Foundation (2022-2027) .

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors


  • Cognitive development
  • Gene-environment interaction
  • Gene-environment interplay
  • Polygenic scores
  • TEDS

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