B3866 - The role of sensory function for academic achievement in gene-environment correlations - 14/10/2021

B number: 
Principal applicant name: 
Judith Schmitz | Georg-August Univeritaet Goettingen (Germany)
Prof Dr Lars Penke, Dr W. David Hill, Dr Charley Xia, University of Edinburgh
Title of project: 
The role of sensory function for academic achievement in gene-environment correlations
Proposal summary: 

What is it that makes us successful when it comes to education? The fact that human intelligence and educational attainment are partly genetically influenced has been incorrectly interpreted in favour of a genetic determinism. However, genetic and environmental factors are not completely independent from each other. For example, children with a genetic disposition towards higher educational attainment are more likely to enroll in advanced classes and therefore further increase their educational attainment. In this context, it is fundamental to pinpoint the specific genetically-influenced traits that affect likelihood for children to select cognitively stimulating environments. Sensory functions (hearing and vision) in childhood are less explored than personality and motivational traits, but are particularly interesting as they can be modified through appropriate aids. In this project, we aim to investigate the role of hearing and vision in childhood for educational attainment in the course of gene-environment correlations. If parts of the genetic factors associated with intelligence and educational success actually exert their influence via hearing and vision abilities in childhood, these findings contradict the idea of a genetic determinism. Analysing these associations on a longitudinal scale will help to determine time points for early interventions (such as correction of minor hearing and vision impairments). Since children with a lower socioeconomic status show reduced hearing as compared to those with a higher socioeconomic status, disadvantaged children could particularly benefit from interventions, which would result in a reduction of social inequalities.

Impact of research: 
The overarching goal of this project is to provide specific recommendations on the design of intervention studies (i.e. early correction of minor hearing and vision impairments) that aim to strengthen academic achievement. As mentioned above, the strong associations with socioeconomic status suggests that this would reduce the effects of social inequality and have positive effects on neurodevelopment and physical health.
Date proposal received: 
Wednesday, 22 September, 2021
Date proposal approved: 
Tuesday, 28 September, 2021
Genetic epidemiology (including association studies and mendelian randomisation), Developmental disorders - autism, Cognitive impairment, Learning difficulty, Mental health, Speech/language problem, GWAS, Statistical methods, Cognition - cognitive function, Development, ENT - hearing, Environment - enviromental exposure, pollution, Genetic epidemiology, Genome wide association study, Intelligence - memory, Mendelian randomisation, Psychology - personality, Vision