Twin babies

The TWIN-E study in emotion and cognition

In a collaborative ARC-Linkage study, Dr Justine Gatt and Prof Peter Schofield, together with Prof Leanne Williams (Stanford University), A/Prof Anthony Harris (University of Sydney), Prof Richard Clark (Flinders University) and Brain Resource (industry partner), have conducted the TWIN-E Emotional Wellbeing study (Gatt et al., 2012, Twin Res Hum Gen). This is a large prospective study of over 1,600 monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) adult twins from the Australian Twin Registry tested on emotional and cognitive measures of neurocognitive function, autonomics, electrophysiological measures (including EEG and ERPs), measures of neuroimaging (including MRI, DTI and fMRI), as well as salivary samples for DNA extraction. The overall goal of this project is to establish the role of genetics versus environment for each measure of emotion and cognition, as well as resting state function, using twin modelling. They have shown, for example, variations in heritability for different brain regions when comparing different methods of structural imaging (including grey matter volume and surface area versus cortical thickness), as well as variations in heritability for the same task varying with modality (e.g., varying heritability for the emotion task when measured using EEG versus cognitive performance measures). Another goal of the project is to examine the amount of shared genetics and environment between these different measures of emotion and cognition and symptoms such as anxiety and depression, and how specific genes and life experiences may account for these shared relationships.