Genetic and environmental influences on structural variability of the brain in pediatric twin: deformation based morphometry

Neurosci Lett. 2011 Apr 8;493(1-2):8-13. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2011.01.070. Epub 2011 Feb 4.


Twin studies are one of the most powerful study designs for estimating the relative contribution of genetic and environmental influences on phenotypic variation inhuman brain morphology. In this study, we applied deformation based morphometry, a technique that provides a voxel-wise index of local tissue growth or atrophy relative to a template brain, combined with univariate ACE model, to investigate the genetic and environmental effects on the human brain structural variations in a cohort of homogeneously aged healthy pediatric twins. In addition, anatomical regions of interest (ROIs) were defined in order to explore global and regional genetic effects. ROI results showed that the influence of genetic factors on cerebrum (h(2)=0.70), total gray matter (0.67), and total white matter (0.73) volumes were significant. In particular, structural variability of left-side lobar volumes showed a significant heritability. Several subcortical structures such as putamen (h(ROI)(2)=0.79/0.77(L/R),h(MAX)(2)=0.82/0.79) and globus pallidus (0.81/0.76, 0.88/0.82) were also significantly heritable in both voxel-wise and ROI-based results. In the voxel-wise results, lateral parts of right cerebellum (c(2)=0.68) and the posterior portion of the corpus callosum (0.63) were rather environmentally determined, but it failed to reach statistical significance. Pediatric twin studies are important because they can discriminate several influences on developmental brain trajectories and identify relationships between gene and behavior. Several brain structures showed significant genetic effects and might therefore serve as biological markers for inherited traits, or as targets for genetic linkage and association studies.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Brain / embryology*
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Cerebellum / embryology
  • Cerebellum / growth & development
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / physiology*
  • Genetic Variation / physiology*
  • Globus Pallidus / embryology
  • Globus Pallidus / growth & development
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Putamen / embryology
  • Putamen / growth & development
  • Twins / genetics*