Up at 5AM: The 5AM Solutions Blog

Researchers Uncover 8 Genes That Build Your Brain

Posted on Thu, Jan 22, 2015 @ 03:29 PM

In terms of our brains, size matters. In the animal kingdom, humans are somewhat remarkable for our brain to 7254703796_92baa261bf_obody size ratio. A paper published in Nature points to a genetic basis for the size of some of the structures that make up our brains and that influence diverse functions from being able to ride a bike without thinking about it to remembering your route to work. 

The research was conducted by the ENIGMA Consortium (Enhancing Neuroimaging Genetics Through Meta Analysis), and international group of more than 300 scientists from 33 countries. The paper is the first published research by the group which is an NIH-funded Center of Excellence for Big Data Computing. The group's aim is to pool hundreds of thousands of DNA samples and brain scans to get more and better information about how and why our brains are affected by our genome. 

One reason that this is so significant is that small neuroimaging studies (and the majority are small) are small because neuroimaging is expensive with scans costing up to $600 per person. The study benefited from researchers pooling their resources and data to so that they could derive meaningful information about the genetic roots of psychiatric and neurological disorders.

With data from 30,000 brain scans, information about patients' genes, as well as other health information, the consortium is looking forward to being able to mine many other signficant insights into brain function.

Sifting through the data, the ENIGMA researchers found strong correlations between apparently tiny genetic variations and the size of a few brain structures. They looked at the hippocampus, which is involved with storing memories and with learning; the caudate nucleus which is the region of the brain that allows you to, for instance, play the tuba, seemingly by instinct, once you've learned how; and the putamen which plays a role in complex movements like running and with motivation. 

 Although clinical applications are a very long way off, ENIGMA's finding will almost certainly impact research into very serious, but relatively common illnesses. The aforementioned regions of the brain are affected by diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and autism.

Image Credit: Scan_07_75 by bucaorg (Paul Burnett) under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Never Miss a Post. Subscribe!

Tags: research, Big Data


Diagnostic Tests on the Map of Biomedicine


Download the ebook based on our popular blog series. This free, 50+ page edition features updated, expanded posts and redesigned, easier-to-read maps. 

FREE Biobanking Ebook

Biobanking Free Ebook
Get this 29 page PDF document on how data science can be used to advance biorepositories.

 Free NGS Whitepaper

NGS White Paper for Molecular Diagnostics

Learn about the applications, opportunities and challenges in this updated free white paper. 

Recent Posts