Linking neurogenetics and individual differences in language learning: The dopamine hypothesis

Patrick C.M. Wong*, Kara Morgan-Short, Marc Ettlinger, Jing Zheng

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Fundamental advances in neuroscience have come from investigations into neuroplasticity and learning. These investigations often focus on identifying universal principles across different individuals of the same species. Increasingly, individual differences in learning success have also been observed, such that any seemingly universal principle might only be applicable to a certain extent within a particular learner. One potential source of this variation is individuals' genetic differences. Adult language learning provides a unique opportunity for understanding individual differences and genetic bases of neuroplasticity because of the large individual differences in learning success that have already been documented, and because of the body of empirical work connecting language learning and neurocognition. In this article, we review the literature on the genetic bases of neurocognition, especially studies examining polymorphisms of dopamine (DA)-related genes and procedural learning. This review leads us to hypothesize that there may be an association between DA-related genetic variation and language learning differences. If this hypothesis is supported by future empirical findings we suggest that it may point to neurogenetic markers that allow for language learning to be personalized.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1091-1102
Number of pages12
Issue number9
StatePublished - Oct 2012


  • Dopamine
  • Neurogenetics
  • Procedural learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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