The heritability of volumes of brain structures and its relationship to age

A review of twin and family studies

Seyed Amir Hossein Batouli, Julian N. Trollor, Wei Wen, Perminder S. Sachdev*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

28 Citations (Scopus)


Total brain volume (BV) and the volumes of brain substructures are influenced by genes, the magnitude of which changes with age. One approach to the examination of genetic influences on the volumes of brain structures is to determine their heritability using twin and family studies. We reviewed published cross-sectional studies which examined heritability in healthy subjects at different ages. We identified 32 studies, which examined a total of 77 brain volumetric measures. The findings of our review showed that BVs are under significant genetic influence at all ages, although different brain regions showed different heritability levels. Furthermore, the cross-sectional approach of our review found that heritability factor for the majority of BVs declined with age, such as in the total brain and cerebrum, followed by subsequent increment of environmental influences. Overall, this study identified for the first time a cross-sectional pattern for brain structures' heritability changes with age, and suggests the potential for longitudinal investigations in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalAgeing Research Reviews
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Brain volume
  • Elderly
  • Healthy ageing
  • Heritability
  • Twins

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