, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp 234-250
Date: 29 Sep 2013

Genetic influences on brain developmental trajectories on neuroimaging studies: from infancy to young adulthood

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Human brain development has been studied intensively with neuroimaging. However, little is known about how genes influence developmental brain trajectories, even though a significant number of genes (about 10,000, or approximately one-third) in the human genome are expressed primarily in the brain and during brain development. Interestingly, in addition to showing differential expression among tissues, many genes are differentially expressed across the ages (e.g., antagonistic pleiotropy). Age-specific gene expression plays an important role in several critical events in brain development, including neuronal cell migration, synaptogenesis and neurotransmitter receptor specificity, as well as in aging and neurodegenerative disorders (e.g., Alzheimer disease or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). In addition, the majority of psychiatric and mental disorders are polygenic, and many have onsets during childhood and adolescence. In this review, we summarize the major findings from neuroimaging studies that link genetics with brain development, from infancy to young adulthood. Specifically, we focus on the heritability of brain structures across the ages, age-related genetic influences on brain development and sex-specific developmental trajectories.