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Twin Res Hum Genet. 2007 Oct;10(5):683-94.

Review of twin and family studies on neuroanatomic phenotypes and typical neurodevelopment.

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Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics, Medical College of Virginia,Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond,Virginia, USA.


This article reviews the extant twin studies employing magnetic resonance imaging data (MRI), with an emphasis on studies of population-based samples. There have been approximately 75 twin reports using MRI, with somewhat under half focusing on typical brain structure. Of these, most are samples of adults. For large brain regions such as lobar volumes, the heritabilities of large brain volumes are consistently high, with genetic factors accounting for at least half of the phenotypic variance. The role of genetics in generating individual differences in the volumes of small brain regions is less clear, mostly due to a dearth of information, but rarely because of disagreement between studies. Multivariate analyses show strong genetic relationships between brain regions. Cortical regions involved in language, executive function, and emotional regulation appear to be more heritable than other areas. Studies of brain shape also show significant, albeit lower, genetic effects on population variance. Finally, there is evidence of significant genetically mediated relationships between intelligence and brain structure. At present, the majority of twin imaging studies are limited by sample sizes small by the standards of behavioral genetics; nevertheless the literature at present represents a pioneering effort in the pursuit of answers to many challenging neurobiological questions.

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