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UCLA team maps how genes affect brain structure, intelligence; dramatic images shed light on brain diseases, personality differences

UCLA brain mapping researchers have created the first images to show how an individuals genes influence their brain structure and intelligence.

The findings, published in the Nov. 5 issue of the journal Nature Neuroscience, offer exciting new insight about how parents pass on personality traits and cognitive abilities, and how brain diseases run in families.

The team found that the amount of gray matter in the frontal parts of the brain is determined by the genetic make-up of an individuals parents, and strongly correlates with that individuals cognitive ability, as measured by intelligence test scores.

More importantly, these are the first images to uncover how normal genetic differences influence brain structure and intelligence.

Brain regions controlling language and reading skills were virtually identical in identical twins, who share exactly the same genes, while siblings showed only 60 percent of the normal brain differences.

This tight structural similarity in the brains of family members helps explain why brain diseases, including schizophrenia and some types of dementia, run in families.

We were stunned to see that the amount of gray matter in frontal brain regions was strongly inherited, and also predicted an individuals IQ score, said Paul Thompson, the studys chief investigator and an assistant professor of neurology at the UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging.

The brains language areas were also extremely similar in family members. Brain regions that were found to be most similar in family members may be especially vulnerable to diseases that run in families, including some forms of psychosis and dementia.

The scientists employed magnetic resonance imaging technology to scan a group of 20 identical twins, whose genes are identical, and 20 same-sex fraternal twins, who share half their genes.

Using a high-speed supercomputer, they created color-coded images showing which parts of the brai
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Contact: Dan Page
dpage@support.ucla.edu
310-794-2265
University of California - Los Angeles
4-Nov-2001


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