The developmental genetic architecture of vocabulary skills during the first three years of life: Capturing emerging associations with later-life reading and cognition

Autoři: Ellen Verhoef aff001;  Chin Yang Shapland aff001;  Simon E. Fisher aff001;  Philip S. Dale aff006;  Beate St Pourcain aff001
Působiště autorů: Language and Genetics Department, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen, The Netherlands aff001;  International Max Planck Research School for Language Sciences, Nijmegen, The Netherlands aff002;  MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit, University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom aff003;  Population Health Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom aff004;  Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands aff005;  Speech & Hearing Sciences, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States of America aff006
Vyšlo v časopise: The developmental genetic architecture of vocabulary skills during the first three years of life: Capturing emerging associations with later-life reading and cognition. PLoS Genet 17(2): e1009144. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1009144
Kategorie: Research Article


Individual differences in early-life vocabulary measures are heritable and associated with subsequent reading and cognitive abilities, although the underlying mechanisms are little understood. Here, we (i) investigate the developmental genetic architecture of expressive and receptive vocabulary in early-life and (ii) assess timing of emerging genetic associations with mid-childhood verbal and non-verbal skills. We studied longitudinally assessed early-life vocabulary measures (15–38 months) and later-life verbal and non-verbal skills (7–8 years) in up to 6,524 unrelated children from the population-based Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) cohort. We dissected the phenotypic variance of rank-transformed scores into genetic and residual components by fitting multivariate structural equation models to genome-wide genetic-relationship matrices. Our findings show that the genetic architecture of early-life vocabulary involves multiple distinct genetic factors. Two of these genetic factors are developmentally stable and also contribute to genetic variation in mid-childhood skills: One genetic factor emerging with expressive vocabulary at 24 months (path coefficient: 0.32(SE = 0.06)) was also related to later-life reading (path coefficient: 0.25(SE = 0.12)) and verbal intelligence (path coefficient: 0.42(SE = 0.13)), explaining up to 17.9% of the phenotypic variation. A second, independent genetic factor emerging with receptive vocabulary at 38 months (path coefficient: 0.15(SE = 0.07)), was more generally linked to verbal and non-verbal cognitive abilities in mid-childhood (reading path coefficient: 0.57(SE = 0.07); verbal intelligence path coefficient: 0.60(0.10); performance intelligence path coefficient: 0.50(SE = 0.08)), accounting for up to 36.1% of the phenotypic variation and the majority of genetic variance in these later-life traits (≥66.4%). Thus, the genetic foundations of mid-childhood reading and cognitive abilities are diverse. They involve at least two independent genetic factors that emerge at different developmental stages during early language development and may implicate differences in cognitive processes that are already detectable during toddlerhood.

Klíčová slova:

Genetic linkage – Genetic polymorphism – Genetics – Human genetics – Language – Phenotypes – Semantics – Vocabulary


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PLOS Genetics

2021 Číslo 2
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