How genetic variation gives rise to differences in mathematical ability

October 22, 2020

DNA variation in a gene called ROBO1 is associated with early anatomical differences in a brain region that plays a key role in quantity representation, potentially explaining how genetic variability might shape mathematical performance in children, according to a study published October 22nd in the open-access journal PLOS Biology by Michael Skeide of the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, and colleagues. Specifically, the authors found that genetic variants of ROBO1 in young children are associated with grey matter volume in the right parietal cortex, which in turn predicts mathematical test scores in second grade.

Mathematical ability is known to be heritable and related to several genes that play a role for brain development. But it has not been clear how math-related genes might sculpt the developing human brain. As a result, it is an open question how genetic variation could give rise to differences in mathematical ability. To address this gap in knowledge, Skeide and his collaborators combined genotyping with brain imaging in unschooled children without mathematical training.

The authors analyzed 18 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) -genetic variants affecting a single DNA building block -- in 10 genes previously implicated in mathematical performance. They then examined the relationship between these variants and the volume of grey matter (which mainly consists of nerve cell bodies), across the whole brain in a total of 178 three- to six-year-old children who underwent magnetic resonance imaging. Finally, they identified brain regions whose grey matter volumes could predict math test scores in second grade.

They found that variants in ROBO1, a gene that regulates prenatal growth of the outermost layer of neural tissue in the brain, are associated with the grey matter volume in the right parietal cortex, a key brain region for quantity representation. Moreover, grey matter volume within these regions predicted the children's math test scores at seven to nine years of age. According to the authors, the results suggest that genetic variability might shape mathematical ability by influencing the early development of the brain's basic quantity processing system.
-end-
Research Article

Peer reviewed; Experimental study; People

In your coverage please use these URLs to provide access to the freely available articles in PLOS Biology: http://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.3000871

Citation: Skeide MA, Wehrmann K, Emami Z, Kirsten H, Hartmann AM, Rujescu D, et al. (2020) Neurobiological origins of individual differences in mathematical ability. PLoS Biol 18(10): e3000871. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.3000871

Funding: This work was supported by a grant of the Fraunhofer Society and the Max Planck Society (M.FE.A.NEPF0001). The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

PLOS

Related Science Articles from Brightsurf:

75 science societies urge the education department to base Title IX sexual harassment regulations on evidence and science
The American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) today led 75 scientific societies in submitting comments on the US Department of Education's proposed changes to Title IX regulations.

Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, biopharma, and pharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2018 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.

Science in the palm of your hand: How citizen science transforms passive learners
Citizen science projects can engage even children who previously were not interested in science.

Applied science may yield more translational research publications than basic science
While translational research can happen at any stage of the research process, a recent investigation of behavioral and social science research awards granted by the NIH between 2008 and 2014 revealed that applied science yielded a higher volume of translational research publications than basic science, according to a study published May 9, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Xueying Han from the Science and Technology Policy Institute, USA, and colleagues.

Prominent academics, including Salk's Thomas Albright, call for more science in forensic science
Six scientists who recently served on the National Commission on Forensic Science are calling on the scientific community at large to advocate for increased research and financial support of forensic science as well as the introduction of empirical testing requirements to ensure the validity of outcomes.

World Science Forum 2017 Jordan issues Science for Peace Declaration
On behalf of the coordinating organizations responsible for delivering the World Science Forum Jordan, the concluding Science for Peace Declaration issued at the Dead Sea represents a global call for action to science and society to build a future that promises greater equality, security and opportunity for all, and in which science plays an increasingly prominent role as an enabler of fair and sustainable development.

PETA science group promotes animal-free science at society of toxicology conference
The PETA International Science Consortium Ltd. is presenting two posters on animal-free methods for testing inhalation toxicity at the 56th annual Society of Toxicology (SOT) meeting March 12 to 16, 2017, in Baltimore, Maryland.

Citizen Science in the Digital Age: Rhetoric, Science and Public Engagement
James Wynn's timely investigation highlights scientific studies grounded in publicly gathered data and probes the rhetoric these studies employ.

Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, pharma, and biopharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2016 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.

Three natural science professors win TJ Park Science Fellowship
Professor Jung-Min Kee (Department of Chemistry, UNIST), Professor Kyudong Choi (Department of Mathematical Sciences, UNIST), and Professor Kwanpyo Kim (Department of Physics, UNIST) are the recipients of the Cheong-Am (TJ Park) Science Fellowship of the year 2016.

Read More: Science News and Science Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.