Up to six mental disorders influence performance in math but not language

Up to six mental disorders influence performance in math but not language

There seems to be a huge achievement gap between math and language when you look at the six major psychiatric disorders: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, and Anorexia.

It’s at least what this recent study (still preprint) suggests.

Language and mathematics

People with psychiatric disorders perform differently in school compared to the general population. Genetic factors contribute substantially to such differences . However, it is not clear whether differential performance is observed in all cognitive domains, such as mathematics and language.

The study analyzed how school performance differs between six psychiatric disorders and the general population using 31,000 iPSYCH individuals who were genotyped . And iPSYCH is a national project founded in 2012 by six leading researchers in the fields of psychiatry and genetics. The purpose of iPSYCH is to create the foundation for better treatment and prevention of five of the most serious mental disorders.

In total, a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of school grades was analyzed in 30,982 individuals (18,495 with and 12,487 without one or more of the six major psychiatric disorders).

This unique data set allowed us to link cognitive genetics and psychiatric genetics in ways that were not possible before. This has allowed us to suggest that the main mental disorders negatively influence performance in mathematics, but not in language classes . That is, when analyzing the specific grades of the subjects, it was observed that the mathematical performance was severely affected, while the performance of the language (Danish and English) was not affected or improved in those with psychiatric disorders compared to the controls.

Performance in these subjects, in part, depends on the student’s genes. But what’s fascinating is that it’s the same genetic variants that predispose you to math problems are also the ones that increase your risk of psychiatric disorders .

These variants also predispose you to adopt a creative profession such as writing, acting, and music. Thus, evidence seems to have been found to suggest that all three traits (language ability, psychopathology, and creativity) could come from the same genetic roots .

Timothy Crow had similar insights nearly 20 years ago in his study: Is schizophrenia the price Homo sapiens pays for language?