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Mol Psychiatry. 2018 Jun;23(6):1402-1409. doi: 10.1038/mp.2017.122. Epub 2017 Jun 6.

Genome-wide meta-analysis of cognitive empathy: heritability, and correlates with sex, neuropsychiatric conditions and cognition.

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Autism Research Centre, Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, UK.
QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Brisbane, QLD, Australia.
Department of Psychology, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Be'er Sheva, Israel.
CNRS UMR 3571: Genes, Synapses and Cognition, Institut Pasteur, Paris, France.
Université Paris Diderot, Sorbonne Paris Cité, Human Genetics and Cognitive Functions, Paris, France.
Institut Pasteur, Paris, France.
Centre for Integrative Neuroscience and Neurodynamics, School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences, University of Reading, Reading, UK.
NIHR Cambridge BioResource, Cambridge University and Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Cambridge, UK.
23andMe Inc., Mountain View, CA, USA.
Department of Biological Psychology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
EMGO+ Institute for Health and Care Research, VU Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Neuroscience Campus Amsterdam, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Department of Psychology, University of Notre Dame, South Bend, IN, USA.
Political Science, Microbiology and Biochemistry, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA.
CLASS Clinic, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT), Cambridgeshire, UK.


We conducted a genome-wide meta-analysis of cognitive empathy using the 'Reading the Mind in the Eyes' Test (Eyes Test) in 88,056 research volunteers of European Ancestry (44,574 females and 43,482 males) from 23andMe Inc., and an additional 1497 research volunteers of European Ancestry (891 females and 606 males) from the Brisbane Longitudinal Twin Study. We confirmed a female advantage on the Eyes Test (Cohen's d=0.21, P<2.2 × 10-16), and identified a locus in 3p26.1 that is associated with scores on the Eyes Test in females (rs7641347, Pmeta=1.58 × 10-8). Common single nucleotide polymorphisms explained 5.8% (95% CI: 4.5%-7.2%; P=1.00 × 10-17) of the total trait variance in both sexes, and we identified a twin heritability of 28% (95% CI: 13%-42%). Finally, we identified significant genetic correlation between the Eyes Test and anorexia nervosa, openness (NEO-Five Factor Inventory), and different measures of educational attainment and cognitive aptitude.

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