Twin babies

Heritability of brain functioning across resting, emotional and cognitive tasks in the TWIN-E Study (2009-)

The TWIN-E Emotional Wellbeing study is a large prospective study of over 1,600 monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) adult twins from Twins Research Australia (Gatt et al., 2012, Twin Res Hum Gen). This study was an ARC Linkage project conducted in collaboration with industry partner Brain Resource Ltd. The goal of this project is to establish the role of genetics versus environment for various measures of emotion and cognition, as well as resting state function, using twin modelling. Twins were 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. Another goal of the project is to examine the amount of shared genetics and environment between these different measures, and how specific genes and life experiences may account for these shared relationships.

Team Members & Collaborators

Prof Leanne Williams (Stanford University, USA) was the lead on this project, with co-investigators including Prof Peter Schofield (NeuRA and UNSW, Australia), Prof Anthony Harris (University of Sydney), and Prof Richard Clark (Flinders University). Dr Justine Gatt was the ARC Linkage Postdoctoral Research Fellow on this project. The industry partner was Brain Resource Ltd. The PhD students involved in this project include: Karen Burton (PhD, completed), Kaushik Ram (PhD, completed) and Kylie Routledge (PhD, completed). Research Assistants involved in this project include: Alicia Wilcox (2009-11), Hope Michaelson (2011-12) and Sarsha Yap (2011-12). The twin participants for this project were drawn from the Twins Research Australia (TRA) twin registry (

Grant Funding

This project was supported by an ARC Linkage Grant (Williams, Schofield, Harris and Clark, Gatt), which included an ARC Linkage Postdoctoral Fellowship awarded to Dr Justine Gatt (LP0883621, 2008-2011), and PhD Scholarships awarded to each PhD student.

Key Outcomes & Publications

The protocol for this study has been published (Gatt et al., 2012). Final sample numbers recruited include: ~1,600 twins with baseline questionnaire and neurocognitive performance data, and DNA samples, ~450 twins with EEG, ERP and autonomic data, and ~270 twins with MRI, fMRI and DTI data. Analyses are continuing for the other measures.

Park HRP, Quide Y, Schofield PR, Williams LM, Gatt JM. (2022). Grey matter covariation and the role of emotion reappraisal in mental wellbeing and resilience after early life stress exposure. Translational Psychiatry, 12, 85.

Montalto A, Park HRP, Williams LM, Korgaonkar MS, Chilver MR, Jamshidi J, Schofield PR, Gatt JM. (2022). Negative association between anterior insula activation and resilience during sustained attention: an fMRI twin study. Psychological Medicine. pp 1-13.

Chilver MR, Park HRP, Schofield PR, Clark CR, Williams LM, Gatt JM. (2022). Emotional face processing correlates with depression/anxiety symptoms but not wellbeing in non-clinical adults: An event-related potential study. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 145, 18-26.

Gatt JM, Burton KLO, Schofield PR, Bryant RA, Williams LM. (2021). Corrigendum to ‘The heritability of mental health and
wellbeing defined using COMPAS-W, a new composite measure of wellbeing’: Psychiatry Research, 219 (2014), 204-213. Psychiatry Research, 304. 114141. Accepted 24th July 2021.

Park HRP, Chilver MR, Montalto A, Jamshidi J, Schofield PR, Williams LM, Gatt JM. (2021). Associations between mental wellbeing and fMRI neural bases underlying responses to positive emotion in a twin sample. Psychological Medicine, 1-9.

Routledge KM, Williams LM, Harris AWF, Schofield PR, Gatt JM. (2021). The impact of online brain training exercises on experiences of depression, anxiety and emotional wellbeing in a twin sample. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 134, 138-149.

Jamshidi J, Williams LM, Schofield PR, Park H, Montalto A, Chilver M, Bryant R, Toma C, Fullerton J, Gatt JM. (2020). Diverse phenotypic measurements of wellbeing: Heritability, temporal stability, and the variance explained by polygenic scores. Genes, Brain and Behavior, 19 (8), e12694.

Chilver MR, Keller AS, Park H, Jamshidi J, Montalto A, Schofield PR, Clark CR, Harmon-Jones E, Williams LM, Gatt JM. (2020). Electroencephalography profiles as a biomarker of wellbeing: A twin study. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 126: 114-121.

Gatt JM, Burton KLO, Routledge KM, Grasby KL, Korgaonkar MS, Grieve SM, Schofield PR, Harris AWF, Clark CR, Williams LM. (2018). A negative association between brainstem pontine gray matter volume, wellbeing and resilience in healthy twins. Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, Jun 20; 43(6): 386-395. 10.1503/jpn.170125

Routledge KM, Williams LM, Harris AWF, Schofield PR, Clark CR, Gatt JM. (2018). Genetic correlations between wellbeing, depression and anxiety symptoms and behavioral responses to the emotional faces task in healthy twins. Psychiatry Research, 264, 385-393.

Ball TM, Goldstein-Piekarski AN, Gatt JM, Williams LM. (2017). Quantifying person-level brain network functioning to facilitate clinical translation. Translational Psychiatry, 7, e1248; doi:10.1038/tp.2017.204.

Routledge KM, Burton KLO, Williams LM, Harris A, Schofield PR, Clark CR, Gatt JM. (2017). The shared and unique genetic relationship between mental wellbeing, depression and anxiety symptoms and cognitive function in healthy twins. Cognition and Emotion, 31(7), 1465-1479.

McRae K, Rhee SH, Gatt JM, Godinez D, Williams LM, Gross JJ. (2017). Genetic and environmental influences on emotion regulation: A twin study of cognitive reappraisal and expressive suppression. Emotion, 17(5), 772-777.

Routledge KM, Burton KLO, Williams LM, Harris A, Schofield PR, Clark CR, Gatt JM. (2016). Shared versus distinct genetic contributions of mental wellbeing with depression and anxiety symptoms in healthy twins. Psychiatry Research, 244, 65-70.

Burton KLO, Williams LM, Clark CR, Harris A, Schofield PR, Gatt JM. (2015). Sex differences in the shared genetics of dimensions of self-reported depression and anxiety. Journal of Affective Disorders, 188, 35-42.

Korgaonkar MS, Ram K, Williams LM, Gatt JM, Grieve SM. (2014). Establishing the resting state default mode network derived from functional magnetic resonance imaging tasks as an endophenotype: A twins study. Human Brain Mapping, 35, 3893-3902.

Gatt JM, Burton KLO, Schofield PR, Bryant RA, Williams LM. (2014). The heritability of mental health and wellbeing defined using COMPAS-W, a new composite measure of wellbeing. Psychiatry Research, 219 (1), 204-213.

Gatt JM, Korgaonkar M, Schofield PR, Harris A, Clark CR, Oakley K, Ram K, Michaelson H, Yap S, Stanners M, Wise M, Williams LM. (2012). The TWIN-E project in emotional wellbeing: Study protocol and preliminary heritability results across four MRI and DTI measures. Twin Research and Human Genetics, Special Issue: The Genetics of Brain Imaging Phenotypes. 15 (3), 419-441.