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Keywords:

  • child development;
  • adolescent development;
  • heredity;
  • neuroanatomy;
  • cerebellum

Abstract

To explore the relative impact of genetic and nongenetics factors on human brain anatomy during childhood and adolescence development, a collaborative team from the Child Psychiatry Branch of the National Institute of Mental Health and Virginia Commonwealth University is applying structural equation modeling to brain morphometric data acquired via magnetic resonance imaging from a large sample of monozygotic and dizygotic pediatric subjects. In this report, we discuss methodologic issues related to pediatric neuroimaging twin studies and synthesize results to date from the project. Current sample size from the ongoing longitudinal study is approximately 150 twin pairs. Consistent themes are: (1) heritability is high and shared environmental effects low for most brain morphometric measures; (2) the cerebellum has a distinct heritability profile; (3) genetic and environmental factors contribute to the development of the cortex in a regional and age specific manner; and (4) shared genetic effects account for more of the variance than structure specific effects. Understanding of influences on trajectories of brain development may shed light on the emergence of psychopathology during childhood and adolescence and ultimately may guide therapeutic interventions. Hum Brain Mapp 2007. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.