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A genome wide association study of mathematical ability reveals an association at chromosome 3q29, a locus associated with autism and learning difficulties: A preliminary study

Baron-Cohen, S., Murphy, L., Chakrabarti, B., Craig, I., Mallya, U., Lakatosova, S., Rehnstrom, K., Peltonen, L., Wheelwright, S., Allison, C., Fisher, S. E., & Warrier, V. (2014). A genome wide association study of mathematical ability reveals an association at chromosome 3q29, a locus associated with autism and learning difficulties: A preliminary study. PLoS One, 9(5): e96374. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0096374.
Mathematical ability is heritable, but few studies have directly investigated its molecular genetic basis. Here we aimed to identify specific genetic contributions to variation in mathematical ability. We carried out a genome wide association scan using pooled DNA in two groups of U.K. samples, based on end of secondary/high school national academic exam achievement: high (n = 419) versus low (n = 183) mathematical ability while controlling for their verbal ability. Significant differences in allele frequencies between these groups were searched for in 906,600 SNPs using the Affymetrix GeneChip Human Mapping version 6.0 array. After meeting a threshold of p<1.5×10−5, 12 SNPs from the pooled association analysis were individually genotyped in 542 of the participants and analyzed to validate the initial associations (lowest p-value 1.14 ×10−6). In this analysis, one of the SNPs (rs789859) showed significant association after Bonferroni correction, and four (rs10873824, rs4144887, rs12130910 rs2809115) were nominally significant (lowest p-value 3.278 × 10−4). Three of the SNPs of interest are located within, or near to, known genes (FAM43A, SFT2D1, C14orf64). The SNP that showed the strongest association, rs789859, is located in a region on chromosome 3q29 that has been previously linked to learning difficulties and autism. rs789859 lies 1.3 kbp downstream of LSG1, and 700 bp upstream of FAM43A, mapping within the potential promoter/regulatory region of the latter. To our knowledge, this is only the second study to investigate the association of genetic variants with mathematical ability, and it highlights a number of interesting markers for future study.
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The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics is an institute of the German Max Planck Society. Our mission is to undertake basic research into the psychological,social and biological foundations of language. The goal is to understand how our minds and brains process language, how language interacts with other aspects of mind, and how we can learn languages of quite different types.

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