Scientists find genes with large effects on head and brain size

ScienceDaily | 1/21/2019 | Staff
TimHyuga (Posted by) Level 3
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Children's heads expand steadily to accommodate their growing brains and doctors routinely measure head circumference during the first years of life to assess healthy brain development. Children from around the world follow similar patterns of head growth and final head size has been largely achieved by the age of six years. "We know very little about genetic factors influencing head circumference scores beyond infancy," says Beate St Pourcain, who is lead scientist on the study and group leader at the Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Psycholinguistics, Radboud University Nijmegen and the University of Bristol. "Studying head circumference in older children and adults is important, as it is a permanent measure of our peak brain size that is robust to aging," she explains.

The research team carried out a genome-wide association study (GWAS) in 46,000 adults and children to find genetic variants that influence head circumference and intracranial volume (a measure of brain volume). In collaboration with the UK10K consortium, harnessing detailed information about the entire genome, the scientists were able to investigate common and relatively rare genetic variants in their study. The research involved many cohorts, including the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), a prospectively collected sample where researchers can monitor the growth of children from birth onwards.

Team - Influences - Head - Circumference - Development

The team found that genetic influences on head circumference remain collectively stable during development and are also correlated with genetic factors that contribute to intracranial volume. Chin Yang Shapland, who is shared first author on the study and associated with the MPI for Psycholinguistics, says: "It came as a surprise to us that genetic factors in infancy explain more than 70% of the genetic variance at age 7, and more than 60% at age 15 years. This...
(Excerpt) Read more at: ScienceDaily
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