Genetic effects on the cerebellar role in working memory: Same brain, different genes?

Blokland, G. A. M., McMahon, K. L., Thompson, P. M., Hickie, I. B., Martin, N. G., de Zubicaray, Greig I., & Wright, M. J. (2014) Genetic effects on the cerebellar role in working memory: Same brain, different genes? NeuroImage, 86, pp. 392-403.

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Over the past several years, evidence has accumulated showing that the cerebellum plays a significant role in cognitive function. Here we show, in a large genetically informative twin sample (n= 430; aged 16-30. years), that the cerebellum is strongly, and reliably (n=30 rescans), activated during an n-back working memory task, particularly lobules I-IV, VIIa Crus I and II, IX and the vermis. Monozygotic twin correlations for cerebellar activation were generally much larger than dizygotic twin correlations, consistent with genetic influences. Structural equation models showed that up to 65% of the variance in cerebellar activation during working memory is genetic (averaging 34% across significant voxels), most prominently in the lobules VI, and VIIa Crus I, with the remaining variance explained by unique/unshared environmental factors. Heritability estimates for brain activation in the cerebellum agree with those found for working memory activation in the cerebral cortex, even though cerebellar cyto-architecture differs substantially. Phenotypic correlations between BOLD percent signal change in cerebrum and cerebellum were low, and bivariate modeling indicated that genetic influences on the cerebellum are at least partly specific to the cerebellum. Activation on the voxel-level correlated very weakly with cerebellar gray matter volume, suggesting specific genetic influences on the BOLD signal. Heritable signals identified here should facilitate discovery of genetic polymorphisms influencing cerebellar function through genome-wide association studies, to elucidate the genetic liability to brain disorders affecting the cerebellum.

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ID Code: 85683
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Cerebellum, Functional MRI, Genetics, Heritability, Twin study, Working memory
DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2013.10.006
ISSN: 1095-9572
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Copyright Owner: Copright 2013 Elsevier
Deposited On: 07 Sep 2015 07:08
Last Modified: 07 Sep 2015 07:08

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