Genome-wide meta-analysis of cognitive empathy: heritability, and correlates with sex, neuropsychiatric conditions and cognition

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Abstract

We conducted a genome-wide meta-analysis of cognitive empathy using the ‘Reading the Mind in the Eyes’ Test (Eyes Test) in 88,056 research volunteers of European Ancestry (44,574 females and 43,482 males) from 23andMe Inc., and an additional 1497 research volunteers of European Ancestry (891 females and 606 males) from the Brisbane Longitudinal Twin Study. We confirmed a female advantage on the Eyes Test (Cohen's d = 0.21, P < 2.2 × 10-16), and identified a locus in 3p26.1 that is associated with scores on the Eyes Test in females (rs7641347, Pmeta = 1.58 × 10-8). Common single nucleotide polymorphisms explained 5.8% (95% CI: 4.5%-7.2%; P = 1.00 × 10-17) of the total trait variance in both sexes, and we identified a twin heritability of 28% (95% CI: 13%-42%). Finally, we identified significant genetic correlation between the Eyes Test and anorexia nervosa, openness (NEO-Five Factor Inventory), and different measures of educational attainment and cognitive aptitude.

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