Heritability and genetic correlation between the cerebral cortex and associated white matter connections

Kai-Kai Shen*, Vincent Doré, Stephen Rose, Jurgen Fripp, Katie L. Mcmahon, Greig I. de Zubicaray, Nicholas G. Martin, Paul M. Thompson, Margaret J. Wright, Olivier Salvado

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


The aim of this study is to investigate the genetic influence on the cerebral cortex, based on the analyses of heritability and genetic correlation between grey matter (GM) thickness, derived from structural MR images (sMRI), and associated white matter (WM) connections obtained from diffusion MRI (dMRI). We measured on sMRI the cortical thickness (CT) from a large twin imaging cohort using a surface-based approach (N=308, average age 22.8±2.3 SD). An ACE model was employed to compute the heritability of CT. WM connections were estimated based on probabilistic tractography using fiber orientation distributions (FOD) from dMRI. We then fitted the ACE model to estimate the heritability of CT and FOD peak measures along WM fiber tracts. The WM fiber tracts where genetic influence was detected were mapped onto the cortical surface. Bivariate genetic modeling was performed to estimate the cross-trait genetic correlation between the CT and the FOD-based connectivity of the tracts associated with the cortical regions. We found some cortical regions displaying heritable and genetically correlated GM thickness and WM connectivity, forming networks under stronger genetic influence. Significant heritability and genetic correlations between the CT and WM connectivity were found in regions including the right postcentral gyrus, left posterior cingulate gyrus, right middle temporal gyri, suggesting common genetic factors influencing both GM and WM.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2331-2347
Number of pages17
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Cerebral cortex
  • Diffusion MRI
  • Genetic correlation
  • Grey matter
  • Heritability
  • Structural MRI
  • White matter


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