An international group of American and Spanish researchers have identified a new candidate gene for Specific Language Impairment.
Mabel Rice at the University of Kansas, Shelley Smith of University of Nebraska Medical Center, and Javier Gayan of Seville-based Neocodex in Spain have shed light on the KIAA0319 in the current issue of the Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders.
The researchers have revealed that the gene found on Chromosome 6 was associated with variability in language abilities in a study of children with Specific Language Impairment (SLI) and their family members.
They say that the gene was also found to be linked with variability in speech and reading abilities.
According to the researchers, the children they selected for the study had no hearing loss, general intellectual deficit or autism
Language ability involves vocabulary and grammar, whereas speech involves the accuracy of sound production. Both language and speech ability contribute to a child's ability to read.
The researchers say that the finding that a candidate gene could influence all three abilities suggests a common pathway that could contribute to overlapping strengths or deficiencies across speech, language and reading.
Rice said: "We don't understand the biological mechanisms yet but it's important that we have identified the first gene that could be involved across these three different dimensions of development."
The study involved 322 individuals, including children with SLI, their parents, siblings, and other family members.
"We have come to realize that language really sets the platform for reading to emerge and to thrive. Without a solid language system, it's much harder to get reading going," said Rice.