Genetic link could explain why children develop dyspraxia


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Scientists have identified a link between specific genes and Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), also known as dyspraxia.

New research, led by Oxford Brookes University, which looked at specific genes, could provide vital information on the biology of dyspraxia – a common condition of motor coordination.

The research paper, Motor coordination genome-wide association study, is published in Frontiers in human neuroscience.

DCD can impact a child’s writing and coordination skills, such as tying a shoelace or catching a ball. The condition can limit academic achievement, impact cognitive development, restrict career opportunities, and increase a child’s risk of developing mental health problems. Although the disease is common, very little is known about why some children have problems with motor coordination.

Understanding the causes of DCD

Scientists looked at genetic data from more than 4,000 participants in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children who had their motor coordination tested at age seven. These data have been used to link common genetic variants with motor coordination difficulties, allowing them to better understand the genetic and cellular processes involved in DCD.

Dr Hayley Mountford, researcher in the Department of Biological and Medical Sciences at the University of Oxford Brookes and lead author of the study, said: ‘If we can identify the genes, we can use this information to understand why some children are developing a DCD.

The biology of DCD

Many children with motor coordination difficulties go undiagnosed and, coupled with a lack of research, this has a huge impact on the visibility of DCD both in the public and in the medical community.

“Although this is a preliminary study, these results show clear potential for genetic studies to unravel the underlying biology of DCD,” added Dr Mountford.

“We need to replicate these results in larger data sets to find out why some children are at higher risk. This will lead to developments in the diagnosis of DCD, thereby improving the lives of affected families. “

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