Children differ dramatically in how easily they learn skills such as reading and mathematics and in how well they use these skills to learn more generally. These skills are among the most heritable behavioural traits and the DNA revolution is making it possible to predict these traits from DNA using polygenic scores that aggregate thousands of DNA variants to predict target traits. Polygenic scores can provide an early warning system to predict problems, thus enabling early interventions to ameliorate them.
The novel aim of the proposed project is to maximise the power of polygenic scores to predict specific cognitive abilities and disabilities independent of general cognitive ability. In addition to learning highly transferable skills for ‘big data’ genomic analysis, which are in great demand in academic and industry, the student will create DNA predictors of specific cognitive abilities and disabilities that will transform education.
During Year 1, the student will learn general genomic analytic techniques and compare the predictive power of methods for creating polygenic scores. In Year 2, the student will compare methods to maximise the power of polygenic scores to predict cognitive abilities and disabilities. During Year 3, the student will create polygenic scores that maximise prediction of specific cognitive abilities independent of general cognitive abilities. In Year 4, the student will analyse newly obtained data on ‘quads’ (two parents, two children) to separate ‘direct’ and ‘indirect’ genetic effects.
The supervisors and their datasets (TEDS and GLAD) are based at the internationally renowned SGDP Centre.