Heritability of hippocampal subfield volumes using a twin and non-twin siblings design

Hum Brain Mapp. 2017 Sep;38(9):4337-4352. doi: 10.1002/hbm.23654. Epub 2017 May 31.


The hippocampus is composed of distinct subfields linked to diverse functions and disorders. The subfields can be mapped using high-resolution magnetic resonance images, and their volumes can potentially be used as quantitative phenotypes for genetic investigation of hippocampal function. We estimated the heritability of hippocampus subfield volumes of 465 subjects from the Human Connectome Project (twins and non-twin siblings) using two methods. The first used a univariate model to estimate heritability with and without adjustment for total brain volume (TBV) and ipsilateral hippocampal volume to determine if heritability was uniquely attributable to subfield volume rather than confounds that attributed to global volumes. We observed the right: subiculum, cornu ammonis 2/3, and cornu ammonis 4/dentate gyrus subfields had the highest significant heritability estimates after adjusting for ipsilateral hippocampal volume. In the second analysis, we used a bivariate model to investigate the shared heritability and genetic correlation of the subfield volumes with TBV and ipsilateral hippocampal volume. Genetic correlation demonstrates shared genetic architecture between phenotypes and shared heritability is what proportion of the genetic architecture of one trait is shared by the other. Highest genetic correlations were between subfield volumes and ipsilateral hippocampal volume than with TBV. The pattern was opposite for shared heritability suggesting that subfields share greater proportion of the genetic architecture with TBV than with ipsilateral hippocampal volume. The relationship between the genetic architecture of TBV, hippocampal volume, and of individual subfields should be accounted for when using hippocampal subfield volumes as quantitative phenotypes for imaging genetics studies. Hum Brain Mapp 38:4337-4352, 2017. © 2017 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Keywords: extended twin design; genetic correlation; genetic variation; hippocampal subfield segmentation; quantitative phenotypes; univariate and bivariate model.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Connectome
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality
  • Hippocampus / anatomy & histology*
  • Hippocampus / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Models, Genetic
  • Models, Neurological
  • Organ Size / genetics
  • Quantitative Trait, Heritable*
  • Siblings*
  • Twins, Dizygotic*
  • Twins, Monozygotic*
  • Young Adult