The heritability of reading and reading-related neurocognitive components: A multi-level meta-analysis

Chiara Andreola, Sara Mascheretti, Raffaella Belotti, Anna Ogliari, Cecilia Marino, Marco Battaglia, Simona Scaini

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Reading ability is a complex task requiring the integration of multiple cognitive and perceptual systems supporting language, visual and orthographic processes, working memory, attention, motor movements, and higher-level comprehension and cognition. Estimates of genetic and environmental influences for some of these reading-related neurocognitive components vary across reports. By using a multi-level meta-analysis approach, we synthesized the results of behavioral genetic research on reading-related neurocognitive components (i.e. general reading, letter-word knowledge, phonological decoding, reading comprehension, spelling, phonological awareness, rapid automatized naming, and language) of 49 twin studies spanning 4.1–18.5 years of age, with a total sample size of more than 38,000 individuals. Except for language for which shared environment seems to play a more important role, the causal architecture across most of the reading-related neurocognitive components can be represented by the following equation a² > e² > c². Moderators analysis revealed that sex and spoken language did not affect the heritability of any reading-related skills; school grade levels moderated the heritability of general reading, reading comprehension and phonological awareness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-200
Number of pages26
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


  • Genetics
  • Heritability
  • Meta-analysis
  • Reading-related skills
  • Twin study

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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