Original Investigation

Human Genetics

, Volume 122, Issue 1, pp 103-111

First online:

A twin study of auditory processing indicates that dichotic listening ability is a strongly heritable trait

  • Robert J. MorellAffiliated withLaboratory of Molecular Genetics, National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, National Institutes of Health Email author 
  • , Carmen C. BrewerAffiliated withOtolaryngology Branch, National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders
  • , Dongliang GeAffiliated withDepartment of Pediatrics, Medical College of Georgia, Georgia Prevention InstituteDuke Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy, Center for Population Genomics and Pharmacogenetics
  • , Harold SniederAffiliated withDepartment of Pediatrics, Medical College of Georgia, Georgia Prevention InstituteDepartment of Epidemiology, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen
  • , Christopher K. ZalewskiAffiliated withOtolaryngology Branch, National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders
  • , Kelly A. KingAffiliated withOtolaryngology Branch, National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication DisordersHearing and Speech Sciences Department, University of Maryland
  • , Dennis DraynaAffiliated withLaboratory of Molecular Genetics, National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, National Institutes of Health
  • , Thomas B. FriedmanAffiliated withLaboratory of Molecular Genetics, National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, National Institutes of Health

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Abstract

We administered tests commonly used in the diagnosis of auditory processing disorders (APDs) to twins recruited from the general population. We observed significant correlations in test scores between co-twins. Our analyses of test score correlations among 106 MZ and 33 DZ twin pairs indicate that dichotic listening ability is a highly heritable trait. Dichotic listening is the ability to identify and distinguish different stimuli presented simultaneously to each ear. Deficits in dichotic listening skills indicate a lesion or defect in interhemispheric information processing. Such defects or lesions can be prominent in elderly listeners, language-impaired children, stroke victims, and individuals with PAX6 mutations. Our data indicates that other auditory processing abilities are influenced by shared environment. These findings should help illuminate the etiology of APDs, and help to clarify the relationships between auditory processing abilities and learning/language disorders associated with APDs.