Gene-environment interaction on neural mechanisms of orthographic processing in Chinese children.
The ability to process and identify visual words requires efficient orthographic processing of print, consisting of letters in alphabetic languages or characters in Chinese. The N170 is a robust neural marker for orthographic processes. Both genetic and environmental factors, such as home literacy, have been shown to influence orthographic processing at the behavioral level, but their relative contributions and interactions are not well understood. The present study aimed to reveal possible gene-by-environment interactions on orthographic processing at the behavioral and neural level in a normal children sample. Sixty 12 year old Chinese children from a 10-year longitudinal sample underwent an implicit visual-word color decision task on real words and stroke combinations. The ERP analysis focused on the increase of the occipito-temporal N170 to words compared to stroke combinations. The genetic analysis focused on two SNPs (rs1419228, rs1091047) in the gene DCDC2 based on previous findings linking these 2 SNPs to orthographic coding. Home literacy was measured previously as the number of children's books at home, when the children were at the age of 3. Relative to stroke combinations, real words evoked greater N170 in bilateral posterior brain regions. A significant interaction between rs1091047 and home literacy was observed on the changes of N170 comparing real words to stroke combinations in the left hemisphere. Particularly, children carrying the major allele “G” showed a similar N170 effect irrespective of their environment, while children carrying the minor allele “C” showed a smaller N170 effect in low home-literacy environment than those in good environment.