Conflict of interest statement: No conflicts declared.
Links between DRD4, executive attention, and alphabetic skills in a nonclinical sample
Article first published online: 16 AUG 2012
© 2012 The Authors. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry © 2012 Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health.
Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry
Volume 54, Issue 3, pages 305–312, March 2013
How to Cite
Kegel, C. A. T. and Bus, A. G. (2013), Links between DRD4, executive attention, and alphabetic skills in a nonclinical sample. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 54: 305–312. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2012.02604.x
- Issue published online: 11 FEB 2013
- Article first published online: 16 AUG 2012
- Accepted for publication 3 July 2012Published online: 16 August 2012
- K-1 students;
- dopamine D4 receptor gene;
- executive attention;
- alphabetic skills;
Background: The dopamine D4 receptor gene (DRD4) has been linked to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and reading disorders. In this study, we examined whether diminished anticipatory dopamine cell firing – typical of the long variant of the DRD4 allele – is related to emergent and advanced alphabetic skills, and whether executive attention is a mediator between this allele and alphabetic skills.
Method: We tested alphabetic skills in a normative sample of 159 children in both kindergarten and Grade 1, and executive attention 1 year earlier. Cheek cells were collected and genomic DNA was isolated from the samples using the Chemagic buccal swab kit on a chemagen Module I workstation.
Results: Thirty-seven percent of the children were carriers of at least one DRD4 7-repeat allele. Carriers of the long variant scored lower on alphabetic skills, and executive attention appeared to be a mediator of the relation between characteristics of DRD4 and alphabetic skills in kindergarten and first grade.
Conclusion: This study shows how a genetic factor which has been shown to relate to variation in attention and regulatory behavior can explain delays in alphabetic skills. A practical implication is that in many cases early interventions should not only target reading skills, but also support children’s engagement in tasks.