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Learning abilities and disabilities: Generalist genes, specialist environments

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Y Kovas, R Plomin

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)284 - 288
Number of pages5
JournalCurrent Directions in Psychological Science
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2007

King's Authors


Twin studies comparing identical and fraternal twins consistently show substantial genetic influence on individual differences in learning abilities such as reading and mathematics, as well as in other cognitive abilities such as spatial ability and memory. Multivariate genetic research has shown that the same set of genes is largely responsible for genetic influence on these diverse cognitive areas. We call these "generalist genes." What differentiates these abilities is largely the environment, especially nonshared environments that make children growing up in the same family different from one another. These multivariate genetic findings of generalist genes and specialist environments have far-reaching implications for diagnosis and treatment of learning disabilities and for understanding the brain mechanisms that mediate these effects

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