The genetic and molecular basis of developmental language disorder: A review

Hayley S. Mountford, Ruth Braden, Dianne F. Newbury, Angela T. Morgan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Language disorders are highly heritable and are influenced by complex interactions between genetic and environmental factors. Despite more than twenty years of research, we still lack critical understanding of the biological underpinnings of language. This review provides an overview of the genetic landscape of developmental language disorders (DLD), with an emphasis on the importance of defining the specific features (the phenotype) of DLD to inform gene discovery. We review the specific phenotype of DLD in the genetic literature, and the influence of historic variation in diagnostic inclusion criteria on researchers’ ability to compare and replicate genotype– phenotype studies. This review provides an overview of the recently identified gene pathways in populations with DLD and explores current state-of-the-art approaches to genetic analysis based on the hypothesised architecture of DLD. We will show how recent global efforts to unify diagnostic criteria have vastly increased sample size and allow for large multi-cohort metanalyses, leading the identification of a growing number of contributory loci. We emphasise the important role of estimating the genetic architecture of DLD to decipher underlying genetic associations. Finally, we explore the potential for epigenetics and environmental interactions to further unravel the biological basis of language disorders.
Original languageEnglish
Article number586
Number of pages17
Issue number5
Early online date20 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - May 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • language disorder
  • apraxia of speech
  • CAS
  • DLD
  • genetics
  • specific language impairment
  • SLI
  • neurodevelopment
  • heritability
  • epigenetics


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