Behavior Genetics

, Volume 40, Issue 2, pp 125–134 | Cite as

A Bivariate Twin Study of Regional Brain Volumes and Verbal and Nonverbal Intellectual Skills During Childhood and Adolescence

  • Gregory L. WallaceEmail author
  • Nancy Raitano Lee
  • Elizabeth C. Prom-Wormley
  • Sarah E. Medland
  • Rhoshel K. Lenroot
  • Liv S. Clasen
  • James E. Schmitt
  • Michael C. Neale
  • Jay N. Giedd
Original Research


Twin studies indicate that both intelligence and brain structure are moderately to highly heritable. Recent bivariate studies of adult twins also suggest that intelligence and brain morphometry are influenced by shared genetic factors. The current study examines shared genetic and environmental factors between brain morphometry and intelligence in a sample of children and adolescents (twins, twin siblings, and singletons; n = 649, ages 4–19). To extend previous studies, brain morphometric data were parsed into subregions (lobar gray/white matter volumes, caudate nucleus, lateral ventricles) and intelligence into verbal and nonverbal skills (Wechsler Vocabulary and Block Design subtests). Phenotypic relationships between brain volumes and intelligence were small. Verbal skills shared unique environmental effects with gray matter volumes while nonverbal skills shared genetic effects with both global and regional gray and white matter. These results suggest that distinct mechanisms contribute to the small phenotypic relationships between brain volumes and verbal versus nonverbal intelligence.


Twin Magnetic resonance imaging Brain Intelligence Verbal Nonverbal 



This research was supported by the Intramural Research Program of the NIH, National Institute of Mental Health (GW, NRL, LSC, RL, JG), extramural grant funding from the NIH (MH-20030; EP-W, SEM, JES, MCN), and an NHMRC Australia, Sidney Sax Public Fellowship (443036; SEM). We would like to express our gratitude to the individuals who volunteered their time to contribute to this research.


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Copyright information

© US Government  2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gregory L. Wallace
    • 1
    Email author
  • Nancy Raitano Lee
    • 1
  • Elizabeth C. Prom-Wormley
    • 2
  • Sarah E. Medland
    • 2
    • 3
  • Rhoshel K. Lenroot
    • 1
  • Liv S. Clasen
    • 1
  • James E. Schmitt
    • 2
  • Michael C. Neale
    • 2
  • Jay N. Giedd
    • 1
  1. 1.Child Psychiatry Branch, National Institute of Mental HealthNational Institutes of HealthBethesdaUSA
  2. 2.Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral GeneticsVirginia Commonwealth UniversityRichmondUSA
  3. 3.Genetic Epidemiology UnitQueensland Institute of Medical ResearchBrisbaneAustralia

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