Identification of loci involved in childhood visual acuity and associations with cognitive skills and educational attainment
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Visual acuity significantly contributes to quality of life. Deficits in childhood are associated with reading difficulties, which can have detrimental effects on education outcomes. In adults, it has been observed that vision defects such as myopia are associated with higher educational attainment (EA). Understanding genetic factors contributing to visual acuity could help to dissect its links with cognitive skills, neurodevelopmental conditions, and education. We examined associations between distance visual acuity, cognitive measures including school grades, and neurodevelopmental conditions in a longitudinal cohort of British children (ALSPAC, n = 6807, M age = 11.8). We performed a genome-wide association study (GWAS, n = 5571) on visual acuity and tested for genetic associations with relevant phenotypes using polygenic scores (PGS) and genetic correlation analyses. Visual acuity was associated with better cognitive performance and school grades, and reduced in individuals with reading difficulties compared to controls. GWAS revealed genetic associations at the NPLOC4 locus and highlighted other genes involved in sensory function. In line with positive genetic correlations between visual acuity and cognitive measures, EA PGS were positively associated with visual acuity, while there was a less robust negative association with myopia PGS. In conclusion, increased visual acuity is associated with a range of positive outcomes, including better school grades. Our results suggest an association between a higher EA PGS and slightly increased visual acuity in childhood. This could indicate gene-environment correlation, in which environmental exposures linked to higher EA might have detrimental effects on vision offsetting the initial positive effect.
Schmitz , J , Abbondanza , F , Marianski , K , Luciano , M & Paracchini , S 2023 , ' Identification of loci involved in childhood visual acuity and associations with cognitive skills and educational attainment ' , npj Science of Learning , vol. 8 , 25 . https://doi.org/10.1038/s41539-023-00175-w
npj Science of Learning
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DescriptionFunding: The UK Medical Research Council and Wellcome (Grant ref: 217065/Z/19/Z) and the University of Bristol provide core support for ALSPAC. JS is funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation, 418445085) and supported by the Wellcome Trust [Institutional Strategic Support fund, Grant number 204821/Z/16/Z]. SP is funded by the Royal Society (UF150663). Support to the genetic analysis was provided by the St Andrews Bioinformatics Unit funded by the Wellcome Trust [grant 105621/Z/14/Z].
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