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The COMT Val/Met polymorphism is associated with reading-related skills and consistent patterns of functional neural activation

Authors


Address for correspondence: Nicole Landi, Yale Child Study Center, Haskins Laboratories, 230 S. Frontage Road, New Haven CT 06519, USA; e-mail: Nicole.landi@yale.edu

Abstract

In both children and adults there is large variability in reading skill, with approximately 5–10% of individuals characterized as having reading disability; these individuals struggle to learn to read despite adequate intelligence and opportunity. Although it is well established that a substantial portion of this variability is attributed to the genetic differences between individuals, specifics of the connections between reading and the genome are not understood. This article presents data that suggest that variation in the COMT gene, which has previously been associated with variation in higher-order cognition, is associated with reading and reading-related skills, at the level of both brain and behavior. In particular, we found that the COMT Val/Met polymorphism at rs4680, which results in the substitution of the ancestral Valine (Val) by Methionine (Met), was associated with better performance on a number of critical reading measures and with patterns of functional neural activation that have been linked to better readers. We argue that this polymorphism, known for its broad effects on cognition, may modulate (likely through frontal lobe function) reading skill.

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