Lateralized genetic and environmental influences on human brain morphology of 8-year-old twins

Neuroimage. 2010 Nov 15;53(3):1117-25. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2010.01.007. Epub 2010 Jan 11.


It has been increasing rapidly interest in understanding genetic effects on brain structure and function in recent years. In this study, we examined the genetic and environmental influences on the variation in cortical thickness and specific tissue volumes in a large cohort of 8-year-old healthy twins. The present study can provide a better estimation of the genetic and environmental effects by virtue of the homogeneously aged pediatric twin pairs with a similar growing environment. We found that common environmental factors contributed significantly to the variations of the right lateral ventricle (36%) and corpus callosum (36%) volumes while genetic factors accounted for most of the phenotypic variance in other brain tissue volumes. In the case of cortical thickness, several regions in the left hemisphere showed statistically significant additive genetic factors, including the middle and inferior frontal gyri, lateral fronto-orbital and occipitotemporal gyri, pars opercularis, planum temporale, precentral and parahippocampal gyri and the medial region of the primary somatosensory cortex. Relatively high common environmental influence (>50%) was observed in the right anterior cingulate cortex and insula. Our findings indicate that the genetic and common environmental influences on individual human brain structural differences are lateralized, with the language-dominant left cerebral cortex under stronger genetic control than the right.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Twin Study

MeSH terms

  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Child
  • Environment
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Quantitative Trait, Heritable*
  • Twins / genetics