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Gene Tied to Common Childhood Language Disorder
Date:11/5/2008

The gene has also been implicated in autism, researchers say

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 5 (HealthDay News) -- British researchers have identified the first gene to be associated with a common childhood language disorder.

Variants of the CNTNAP2 gene are associated with the disorder known as specific language impairment (SLI) -- the unexplained difficulty with language that can involve repetition of nonsense words, the researchers said.

The gene has also been implicated in autism and could represent a genetic link between the two disorders, the scientists said.

But the fact that this gene is also linked to other neurological conditions such as autism, epilepsy, schizophrenia and Tourette's syndrome means it may not be unique to language, but to the early development of cognitive function, said Rajesh Miranda, associate professor of neuroscience and experimental therapeutics at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine.

No one knows exactly how this gene may be affecting language.

"What skill in language-impaired children is this gene affecting?" said Dr. Karin Stromswold, author of an editorial accompanying the paper in the Nov. 6 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. "There are a lot of reasons you can be language-impaired, excluding hearing loss and mental retardation."

Many children with common language impairment also have motor impairment, so the gene could actually be affecting either core language or motor involvement, said Stromswold, a professor of psychology and member of the Rutgers University Center for Cognitive Science, in New Brunswick, N.J.

An estimated seven percent of pre-school children have SLI, according to background information in the study.

Scientists had previously identified mutations in a gene known as FOXP2 as involved in speech disorders in one family.

"FOXP2 is the strongest gene candidate for language b
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