Behavior Genetics

, Volume 40, Issue 2, pp 135–145 | Cite as

Genetic Covariation Between Brain Volumes and IQ, Reading Performance, and Processing Speed

  • Rebecca S. Betjemann
  • Erin Phinney Johnson
  • Holly Barnard
  • Richard Boada
  • Christopher M. Filley
  • Pauline A. Filipek
  • Erik G. Willcutt
  • John C. DeFries
  • Bruce F. Pennington
Original Research

Abstract

Although there has been much interest in the relation between brain size and cognition, few studies have investigated this relation within a genetic framework and fewer still in non-adult samples. We analyzed the genetic and environmental covariance between structural MRI data from four brain regions (total brain volume, neocortex, white matter, and prefrontal cortex), and four cognitive measures (verbal IQ (VIQ), performance IQ (PIQ), reading ability, and processing speed), in a sample of 41 MZ twin pairs and 30 same-sex DZ twin pairs (mean age at cognitive test = 11.4 years; mean age at scan = 15.4 years). Multivariate Cholesky decompositions were performed with each brain volume measure entered first, followed by the four cognitive measures. Consistent with previous research, each brain and cognitive measure was found to be significantly heritable. The novel finding was the significant genetic but not environmental covariance between brain volumes and cognitive measures. Specifically, PIQ shared significant common genetic variance with all four measures of brain volume (rg = .58–.82). In contrast, VIQ shared significant genetic influence with neocortex volume only (rg = .58). Processing speed was significant with total brain volume (rg = .79), neocortex (rg = .64), and white matter (rg = .89), but not prefrontal cortex. The only brain measure to share genetic influence with reading was total brain volume (rg = .32), which also shared genetic influences with processing speed.

Keywords

Twin design MRI Brain volume Intelligence Processing speed Reading 

Notes

Acknowledgments

Initial work on this paper was done when R. Betjemann was a postdoctoral trainee at the Institute for Behavioral Genetics, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO. This training was funded by NIMH training grant T32 MH016880-25. This project was also funded by NIH grant HD027802 to the Colorado Learning Disabilities Research Center, of which B. Pennington, J. DeFries, and E. Willcutt are Co-PIs.

References

  1. Anstey K, Mack H, Christensen H, Li S, Reglade-Meslin C, Maller J et al (2007) Corpus callosum size, reaction time speed and variability in mild cognitive disorders and in a normative sample. Neuropsychologia 45:1911–1920CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Baare WFC, Pol HE, Boomsma DI, Posthuma D, de Geus EJC, Schnack HG et al (2001) Quantitative genetic modeling of variation in human brain morphology. Cereb Cortex 11:816–824CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Badian NA (1993) Phonemic awareness, naming, visual symbol processing, and reading. Read Writ Interdiscip J 5:87–100CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baker LA, Vernon PA, Ho H (1991) The genetic correlation between intelligence and speed of information processing. Behav Genet 21:351–367CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Betjemann RS, Willcutt EG, Olson RK, Keenan JM, DeFries JC, Wadsworth SJ (2008) Word reading and comprehension: stability, overlap and independence. Read Writ Interdiscip J 21:539–558CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bunce D, Anstey K, Christensen H, Dear K, Wen W, Sachdev P (2007) White matter hyperintensities and within-person variability in community-dwelling adults aged 60–64 years. Neuropsychologia 45:2009–2015CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Byrne B, Olson RK, Samuelsson S, Wadsworth S, Corley R, DeFries JC, Willcutt E (2006) Genetic and environmental influences on early literacy. J Res Reading 29(1):33–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Catts HW, Gillispie M, Leonard LB, Kail RV, Miller CA (2002) The role of speed of processing, rapid naming, and phonological awareness in reading achievement. J Learn Disabil 35:509–524CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Caviness VS Jr, Meyer J, Makris N, Kennedy DN (1996) MRI based topographic parcellation of human neocortex: an anatomically specified method with estimate of reliability. J Cogn Neurosci 8:566–587CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Compton DL, Davis CJ, DeFries JC, Gayan J, Olson RK (2001) Genetic and environmental influences on reading and RAN: an overview of results from the Colorado twin study. In: Wolf M (ed) Conference proceedings of the dyslexia research foundation conference in extraordinary brain series: time, fluency, and developmental dyslexia. York Press, Baltimore, MD, pp 277–303Google Scholar
  11. De Moor MHM, Boomsma DI, Stubbe JH, Willemsen G, De Geus EJC (2008) Testing causality in the association between regular exercise and symptoms of anxiety and depression. Arch Gen Psychiatry 65:897–905CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. DeFries JC (1985) Colorado reading project. In: Gray DB, Kavanagh JF (eds) Biobehavioral measures of dyslexia. York Press, Parkton, MD, pp 107–122Google Scholar
  13. DeFries JC, Baker LA (1983) Colorado family reading study: longitudinal analyses. Ann Dyslexia 33:153–162CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. DeFries JC, Singer SM, Foch TT, Lewitter FI (1978) Familial nature of reading disability. Br J Psychiatry 132:361–367CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. DeFries JC, Filipek PA, Fulker DW, Olson RK, Pennington BF, Smith SD (1997) Colorado learning disabilities research center. Learn Disabil 8:7–19Google Scholar
  16. Denckla MB, Rudel R (1974) Rapid “automatized” naming of pictured objects, colors, letters, and numbers by normal children. Cortex 10:186–202PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Duncan J, Seitz RJ, Kolodny J, Bor D, Herzog H, Ahmed A, Newell FN, Emslie H (2000) A neural basis for general intelligence. Science 289:457–460CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Dunn LM, Markwardt FC (1970) Examiner’s manual: Peabody individual achievement test. American Guidance Service, Circle Pines, MNGoogle Scholar
  19. Ekstrom RB, French JW, Harman HH, Derman D (1976) Manual for kit of factor-referenced cognitive tests, 1976. Education Testing Service, Princeton, NJGoogle Scholar
  20. Filipek PA, Kennedy DN, Caviness VS, Rossnick SL, Spraggins TA, Starewicz PM (1989) MRI-based morphometry: development and application to normal subjects. Ann Neurol 25:61–67CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Filley CM (2005) White matter and behavioral neurology. Ann N Y Acad Sci 1064:162–183CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Fisher SE, DeFries JC (2002) Developmental dyslexia: genetic dissection of a complex cognitive trait. Nat Rev Neurosci 3:767–780CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Fry AE, Hale S (1996) Processing speed, working memory, and fluid intelligence: evidence for a developmental cascade. Psychol Sci 7:237–241CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gayán J, Olson RK (2003) Genetic and environmental influences on individual differences in printed word recognition. J Exp Child Psychol 84:97–123CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Geidd JN, Schmitt JE, Neale MC (2007) Structural brain magnetic resonance imaging of pediatric twins. Hum Brain Mapp 28:474–481CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gould SJ (1981) The mismeasure of man. WW Norton, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  27. Ho H-Z, Baker LA, Decker SN (1988) Covariation between intelligence and speed of cognitive processing: genetic and environmental influences. Behav Genet 18:247–261CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Jerison HJ (1989) Brain size and the evolution of the mind. American Museum of Natural History, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  29. Jung RE, Haier RJ (2007) The parieto-frontal integration theory of intelligence: converging neuroimaging evidence. Behav Brain SciGoogle Scholar
  30. Kail R (1991) Development of processing speed in childhood and adolescence. Adv Child Dev Behav 23:151–185CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Kennedy DN, Filipek PA, Caviness VS Jr (1989) Anatomic segmentation and volumetric calculations in nuclear magnetic resonance imaging. IEEE Trans Med Imaging 8:1–7CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Kennedy DN, Lange N, Makirs N, Bates J, Meyer J, Caviness VS Jr (1998) Gyri of the human neocortex: an MRI-based analysis of volume and variance. Cereb Cortex 8:372–384CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Lenroot RK, Giedd JN (2007) The structural development of the human brain as measured longitudinally. In: Coch D, Fischer KF, Dawson G (eds) Human behavior, learning and the developing brain. The Guilford Press, New York, pp 50–73Google Scholar
  34. Luciano M, Smith GA, Wright MJ, Geffen GM, Geffen LB, Martin NG (2001a) On the heritability of inspection time and its covariance with IQ: a twin study. Intelligence 29:443–457CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Luciano M, Wright MJ, Smith GA, Geffen GM, Geffen LB, Martin NG (2001b) Genetic covariance among measures of information processing speed, working memory, and IQ. Behav Genet 31:581–592CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Luciano M, Wright MJ, Geffen GM, Geffen LB, Smith GA, Martin NG (2004) A genetic investigation of the covariation among inspection time, choice reaction time, and IQ subtest scores. Behav Genet 34:41–50CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. MacDonald S, Nyberg L, Bäckman L (2006) Intra-individual variability in behavior: links to brain structure, neurotransmission and neuronal activity. Trends Neurosci 29:474–480CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Manis FR, Doi LM, Bhadha B (2000) Naming speed, phonological awareness, and orthographic knowledge in second graders. J Learn Disabil 33: 325–333, 374Google Scholar
  39. McDaniel MA (2005) Big-brained people are smarter: a meta-analysis of the relationship between in vivo brain volume and intelligence. Intelligence 33:337–346CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Neale MC, Boker SM, Xie G, Maes HH (2002) Mx: statistical modeling, 6th edn. Department of Psychiatry, Richmond, VAGoogle Scholar
  41. Nicolson RI, Fawcett AJ (1990) Automaticity: a new framework for dyslexia research. Cognition 35:159–182CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Olson RK (2004) SSSR, environment, and genes. Sci Stud Read 8:111–124CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Pennington BF, Olson RK (2005) Genetics of dyslexia. In: Snowling M, Hulme C (eds) The science of reading: a handbook. Blackwell, Oxford, UK, pp 453–472CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Pennington BF, Filipek PA, Lefly D, Churchwell J, Kennedy DN, Simon JH et al (1999) Brain morphometry in reading-disabled twins. Neurology 53:723–729PubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Pennington BF, Filipek PA, Lefly D, Chhabildas N, Kennedy DA, Simon JH et al (2000) A twin MRI study of size variations in the human brain. J Cogn Neurosci 12:223–232CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. Peper JS, Brouwer RM, Boomsma DI, Kahn RS, Pol HEH (2007) Genetic influences on human brain structure: a review of brain imaging studies in twins. Hum Brain Mapp 28:464–473CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Petrill SA, Deater-Deckard K, Thompson LA, DeThorne L, Schatschneider C (2006) Reading skills in early readers: genetic and shared environmental influences. J Learn Disabil 39(1):48–55CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. Phinney E, Pennington BF, Olson RK, Filley CM, Filipek PA (2007) Brain structure correlates of component reading processes: implications for reading disability. Cortex 43:777–791CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  49. Plomin R, DeFries JC, McClearn GE, McGuffin P (2008) Behavioral genetics, 5th edn. Worth Publishers, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  50. Posthuma D, de Geus EJC, Boomsma DI (2001) Perceptual speed and IQ are associated through common genetic factors. Behav Genet 31:593–602CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  51. Posthuma D, de Geus EJC, Baare WFC, Pol HEH, Kahn RS, Boomsma DI (2002) The association between brain volume and intelligence is of genetic origin. Nat Neurosci 5:83–84CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Posthuma D, Baare WFC, Pol HEH, Kahn RS, Boomsma DI, de Gues EJC (2003) Brain volumes and the WAIS-III dimensions of verbal comprehension, working memory, perceptual organization, and processing speed. Twin Res 6:131–139CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  53. Samuelsson S, Byrne B, Quain P, Wadsworth S, Corley R, DeFries JC, Willcutt E, Olson RK (2005) Environmental and genetic influences on preschool skills in Australia, Scandinavia, and the United States. J Educ Psychol 97:705–722CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Shanahan MA, Pennington BF, Yerys BE, Scott A, Boada R, Willcutt EG, Olson RK, DeFries JC (2006) Processing speed deficits in attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and reading disability. J Abnorm Child Psychol 34:584–601CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Shanahan MA, McGrath L, Santerre-Lemmon L, Barnard H, Willcutt EG, Olson RK, Pennington BF (2007) Shared cognitive deficits in reading disability and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Presented at the biennial meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Boston, MAGoogle Scholar
  56. Thompson PM, Cannon TD, Narr KL, van Erp T, Poutanen V-P, Huttunen M et al (2001) Genetic influences on brain structure. Nat Neurosci 4:1253–1258CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  57. van Leeuwen M, Peper JS, van den Berg SM, Brouwer RM, Hulshoff Pol HE, Kahn RS, Boomsma DI (2009) A genetic analysis of brain volumes and IQ in children. Intelligence 37:181–191CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Wechsler D (1974) Examiners’ manual: Wechsler Intelligence Scale for children, 4th edn. The Psychological Corporation, San Antonio, TXGoogle Scholar
  59. Wechsler D (2003) WISC-IV technical and interpretive manual. The Psychological Corporation, San Antonio, TXGoogle Scholar
  60. Willcutt EG, Pennington BF, Olson RK, Chhibildas N, Hulslander J (2005) Neuropsychological analyses of comorbidity between reading disability and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: in search of the common deficit. Dev Neuropsychol 27:35–78CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  61. Wolf M, Bowers G (1999) The double-deficit hypothesis for the developmental dyslexias. J Educ Psychol 91:415–438CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rebecca S. Betjemann
    • 1
  • Erin Phinney Johnson
    • 2
    • 7
  • Holly Barnard
    • 2
    • 8
  • Richard Boada
    • 2
    • 3
  • Christopher M. Filley
    • 3
    • 4
  • Pauline A. Filipek
    • 5
  • Erik G. Willcutt
    • 6
  • John C. DeFries
    • 6
  • Bruce F. Pennington
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Psychology, D-12Regis UniversityDenverUSA
  2. 2.University of DenverDenverUSA
  3. 3.University of Colorado Denver School of MedicineDenverUSA
  4. 4.Denver Veterans Affairs Medical CenterDenverUSA
  5. 5.University of Texas Health Science Center at HoustonHoustonUSA
  6. 6.University of ColoradoBoulderUSA
  7. 7.Waterford Research InstituteSalt Lake CityUSA
  8. 8.Neuropsychiatric InstituteUniversity of IllinoisChicagoUSA

Personalised recommendations