Genetic influences on brain structure


Here we report on detailed three-dimensional maps revealing how brain structure is influenced by individual genetic differences. A genetic continuum was detected in which brain structure was increasingly similar in subjects with increasing genetic affinity. Genetic factors significantly influenced cortical structure in Broca's and Wernicke's language areas, as well as frontal brain regions (r2MZ > 0.8, p < 0.05). Preliminary correlations were performed suggesting that frontal gray matter differences may be linked to Spearman's g, which measures successful test performance across multiple cognitive domains (p < 0.05). These genetic brain maps reveal how genes determine individual differences, and may shed light on the heritability of cognitive and linguistic skills, as well as genetic liability for diseases that affect the human cortex.

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Figure 1: Genetic continuum of similarity in brain structure.
Figure 2: Correlation between twins in gray matter distribution.
Figure 3: Significance of genetic control of gray matter distribution.


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Grant support was provided by a P41 Resource Grant from the National Center for Research Resources (P.T., A.W.T.; RR13642) and by a National Institute of Mental Health grant (T.D.C.). Additional support for algorithm development was provided by the National Library of Medicine, NINDS, the National Science Foundation, and a Human Brain Project grant to the International Consortium for Brain Mapping, funded jointly by NIMH and NIDA. Special thanks go to U. Mustonen, A. Tanksanen, T. Pirkola, and A. Tuulio-Henriksson for their contributions to subject recruitment and assessment.

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Correspondence to Paul M. Thompson.

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Thompson, P., Cannon, T., Narr, K. et al. Genetic influences on brain structure. Nat Neurosci 4, 1253–1258 (2001).

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