Population neuroscience: Why and how


  • Tomáš Paus

    Corresponding author
    1. Rotman Research Institute, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    2. School of Psychology, University of Nottingham, United Kingdom
    3. Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
    • Rotman Research Institute, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
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Population neuroscience endeavours to identify environmental and genetic factors that shape the function and structure of the human brain; it uses tools and knowledge of genetics, epidemiology, and cognitive neuroscience. Here, I focus on the application of population neuroscience in studies of brain development. By describing in some detail four existing large-scale magnetic resonance (MR) imaging studies of typically developing children and adolescents, I provide an overview of their design, including population sampling and recruitment, assessments of environmental and genetic “exposures,” and measurements of brain and behavior “outcomes.” I then discuss challenges faced by investigators carrying out such MR-based studies, including quality assurance, quality control and intersite coordination, and provide a brief overview of the achievements made so far. I conclude by outlining future directions vis-à-vis population neuroscience, such as design strategies that can be used to evaluate the presence of absence of causality in associations discovered by observational studies. Hum Brain Mapp, 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.