The genetics of cortical myelination in young adults and its relationships to cerebral surface area, cortical thickness, and intelligence: A magnetic resonance imaging study of twins and families

J. Eric Schmitt, Armin Raznahan, Siyuan Liu, Michael C. Neale
2019 NeuroImage  
The cerebral cortex contains a significant quantity of intracortical myelin, but the genetics of cortical myelination (CM) in humans is not well understood. Relatively novel MRI-derived measures now enable the investigation of cortical myelination in large samples. In this study, we use a genetically-informative neuroimaging sample of 1096 young adult subjects from the Human Connectome Project in order to investigate genetic and environmental variation in CM and its relationships with cerebral
more » ... urface area (SA) and cortical thickness (CT). We found that genetic factors account for approximately 50% of the observed individual differences in mean cortical myelin, 75% of the variation in total SA, and 85% of the variance in global mean CT. Although significant genetic influences were found throughout the cortex, both CM and SA demonstrated a posterior predominance, with disproportionately strong effects in the parietal and occipital lobes and significantly overlapping heritability maps (p < 0.001). Yet despite showing similar spatial heritability patterns, we found evidence that CM is genetically independent from SA at both global and vertex levels; genetically-mediated relationships between CM and CT were similarly small in magnitude. We also found small but statistically significant genetic associations between NIH Toolbox Total Cognition score and CM in the temporal lobe and insula. SA-cognition and CT-cognition correlations were less widespread compared to CM and both patterns were similar to those reported in prior studies.
doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2019.116319 pmid:31678229 pmcid:PMC7871660 fatcat:zdnkpunppbh3vb6leynsiicbbm