Quite complex, the brain is responsible for controlling the functioning of the entire body. Its physical characteristics, such as the overall size, shape, and thickness of its folds, vary from person to person.
Until now, scientists knew very little about how genetic makeup affects the development of these structures. But that perception is starting to change with a new study published Thursday (17) in the journal normal genetics.
This survey was carried out by specialists from the Center for Autism Research at the University of Cambridge, England, and is the largest ever conducted on the genes of the human brain. Based on an evaluation of about 36,000 scans, it was possible to identify more than 4,000 variables associated with brain structure.
MRI corresponds to a sample of 32,000 adults from the Biobank and 4,000 children from the Study of Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) in the USA. Through these scans, the researchers measured the area and volume characteristics of the outermost layer of the brain, the cortex, as well as checking the shape of its folds.
With these characteristics identified, the researchers were able to establish connections between the observed characteristics and 180 individual regions of the cortex. This made it possible to confirm, and in some cases notice for the first time, how brain structures are genetically related to each other.
“We wanted to find out whether the same genes associated with cortical volume — measured in terms of volume and area — are also associated with its fold,” notes Faron Warrier, one of the research leaders, in the paper. press release. “By measuring these different characteristics and relating them to genetics, we found that different combinations of genes contribute to shaping the brain.”
The team also examined whether these same genes are responsible for clinical conditions in which head size is significantly larger or smaller than the average of the general population, conditions known as cephalic.
Although they found that genes associated with differences in brain size in the general population overlap with those implicated in head conditions, it was not possible to deduce exactly how these genes lead to the changes.
This work shows that the way our brain develops is partly genetic. Our findings can be used to understand how changes in the shape and size of the brain can lead to neurological and psychiatric conditions, which may lead to better treatment and support for those in need.”
“Hardcore beer fanatic. Falls down a lot. Professional coffee fan. Music ninja.”