Distinctive heritability patterns of subcortical-prefrontal cortex resting state connectivity in childhood: A twin study

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Abstract

Connectivity between limbic/subcortical and prefrontal-cortical brain regions develops considerably across childhood, but less is known about the heritability of these networks at this age. We tested the heritability of limbic/subcortical-cortical and limbic/subcortical-subcortical functional brain connectivity in 7- to 9-year-old twins (N = 220), focusing on two key limbic/subcortical structures: the ventral striatum and the amygdala, given their combined influence on changing incentivised behavior during childhood and adolescence. Whole brain analyses with ventral striatum (VS) and amygdala as seeds in genetically independent groups showed replicable functional connectivity patterns. The behavioral genetic analyses revealed that in general VS and amygdala connectivity showed distinct influences of genetics and environment. VS-prefrontal cortex connections were best described by genetic and unique environmental factors (the latter including measurement error), whereas amygdala-prefrontal cortex connectivity was mainly explained by environmental influences. Similarities were also found: connectivity between both the VS and amygdala and ventral anterior cingulate cortex (vACC) showed influences of shared environment, while connectivity with the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) showed heritability. These findings may inform future interventions that target behavioral control and emotion regulation, by taking into account genetic dispositions as well as shared and unique environmental factors such as child rearing.

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