The Polygenic Nature and Complex Genetic Architecture of Specific Learning Disorder

Brain Sci. 2021 May 14;11(5):631. doi: 10.3390/brainsci11050631.


Specific Learning Disorder (SLD) is a multifactorial, neurodevelopmental disorder which may involve persistent difficulties in reading (dyslexia), written expression and/or mathematics. Dyslexia is characterized by difficulties with speed and accuracy of word reading, deficient decoding abilities, and poor spelling. Several studies from different, but complementary, scientific disciplines have investigated possible causal/risk factors for SLD. Biological, neurological, hereditary, cognitive, linguistic-phonological, developmental and environmental factors have been incriminated. Despite worldwide agreement that SLD is highly heritable, its exact biological basis remains elusive. We herein present: (a) an update of studies that have shaped our current knowledge on the disorder's genetic architecture; (b) a discussion on whether this genetic architecture is 'unique' to SLD or, alternatively, whether there is an underlying common genetic background with other neurodevelopmental disorders; and, (c) a brief discussion on whether we are at a position of generating meaningful correlations between genetic findings and anatomical data from neuroimaging studies or specific molecular/cellular pathways. We conclude with open research questions that could drive future research directions.

Keywords: dyscalculia; dyslexia; genetic variants; specific learning disorder (SLD); susceptibility.

Publication types

  • Review