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J Neurosci. 2009 Mar 4;29(9):2867-75. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5153-08.2009.

Identifying heritable brain phenotypes in an extended pedigree of vervet monkeys.

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  • 1Center for Neurobehavioral Genetics, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California 90095, USA.


The area and volume of brain structural features, as assessed by high-resolution three-dimensional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), are among the most heritable measures relating to the human CNS. We have conducted MRI scanning of all available monkeys >2 years of age (n = 357) from the extended multigenerational pedigree of the Vervet Research Colony (VRC). Using a combination of automated and manual segmentation we have quantified several correlated but distinct brain structural phenotypes. The estimated heritabilities (h(2)) for these measures in the VRC are higher than those reported previously for such features in humans or in other nonhuman primates: total brain volume (h(2) = 0.99, SE = 0.06), cerebral volume (h(2) = 0.98, SE = 0.06), cerebellar volume (h(2) = 0.86, SE = 0.09), hippocampal volume (h(2) = 0.95, SE = 0.07) and corpus callosum cross-sectional areas (h(2) = 0.87, SE = 0.07). These findings indicate that, in the controlled environment and with the inbreeding structure of the VRC, additive genetic factors account for almost all of the observed variance in brain structure, and suggest the potential of the VRC for genetic mapping of quantitative trait loci underlying such variance.

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