Distinct Genetic Influences on Cortical and Subcortical Brain Structures

Distinct Genetic Influences on Cortical and Subcortical Brain Structures

Abstract

This study examined the heritability of brain grey matter structures in a subsample of older adult twins (93 MZ and 68 DZ twin pairs; mean age 70 years) from the Older Australian Twins Study. The heritability estimates of subcortical regions ranged from 0.41 (amygdala) to 0.73 (hippocampus), and of cortical regions, from 0.55 (parietal lobe) to 0.78 (frontal lobe). Corresponding structures in the two hemispheres were influenced by the same genetic factors and high genetic correlations were observed between the two hemispheric regions. There were three genetically correlated clusters, comprising (i) the cortical lobes (frontal, temporal, parietal and occipital lobes); (ii) the basal ganglia (caudate, putamen and pallidum) with weak genetic correlations with cortical lobes, and (iii) the amygdala, hippocampus, thalamus and nucleus accumbens grouped together, which genetically correlated with both basal ganglia and cortical lobes, albeit relatively weakly. Our study demonstrates a complex but patterned and clustered genetic architecture of the human brain, with divergent genetic determinants of cortical and subcortical structures, in particular the basal ganglia.

Citation

Wen, W., Thalamuthu, A., Mather, K. A., Zhu, W., Jiang, J., de Micheaux, P. L., . . . Sachdev, P. S. (2016). Distinct Genetic Influences on Cortical and Subcortical Brain Structures. Scientific Reports, 6, 32760. doi:10.1038/srep32760