Mastering language is an important milestone in a child’s development. Early language development predicts children’s later performance at school and, eventually, their educational attainment. Our group searches for genome-wide signals for word production and comprehension during infancy and toddlerhood as part of our work in the EAGLE consortium and aims to identify the developmental architecture of underlying genetic factors. Analyses also focus on the genetic origins of mid-childhood language and literacy abilities and their genetic overlap with neurodevelopmental conditions. Research is carried out in collaboration with the University of Bristol, the University of New Mexico and Aarhus University.


Example publications

Verhoef, E., Shapland, C. Y., Fisher, S. E., Dale, P. S. & St Pourcain, B. (2021). The developmental genetic architecture of vocabulary skills during the first three years of life: Capturing emerging associations with later-life reading and cognition. PLOS Genetics 17: e1009144. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1009144

Shapland, C. Y., Verhoef, E., Smith, G. D., Fisher, S. E., Verhulst, B., Dale, P. S., & Pourcain, B. S. (2021). Multivariate genome-wide covariance analyses of literacy, language and working memory skills reveal distinct etiologies. npj Sci. Learn. 6, 23 (2021).

Verhoef, E., Shapland, C. Y., Fisher, S. E., Dale, P. S. & St Pourcain, B. (2020). The developmental origins of genetic factors influencing language and literacy: Associations with early-childhood vocabulary. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 62: 728-738. doi:10.1111/jcpp.13327.

Verhoef, E., Demontis, D., Burgess, S., Shapland, C. Y., Dale, P. S., Okbay, A., Neale, B. M., Faraone, S. V., Stergiakouli, E., Smith, G. D., Fisher, S. E., Børglum, A. D., & St Pourcain, B. (2019). Disentangling polygenic associations between Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, educational attainment, literacy and language. Translational Psychiatry 9: 35. doi:10.1038/s41398-018-0324-2

St Pourcain, B., Cents, R. A., Whitehouse, A. J., Haworth, C. M., Davis, O. S., O’Reilly, P. F., et al. (2014). Common variation near ROBO2 is associated with expressive vocabulary in infancy. Nature Communications, 5: 4831. doi:10.1038/ncomms5831




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