A controlled study of brain structure in monozygotic twins concordant and discordant for schizophrenia

Neeltje E.M. Van Haren, Marco M. Picchioni, Colm McDonald, Nicolette Marshall, Nadia Davis, Tracey Ribchester, Hilleke E. Hulshoff Pol, Tonmoy Sharma, Pak Sham, René S. Kahn, Robin Murray

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64 Citations (Scopus)


We examined monozygotic twins concordant and discordant for schizophrenia to clarify the role of genetic and environmental factors in determining brain abnormalities. Magnetic resonance imaging brain scans were obtained from 14 monozygotic twin pairs concordant and 10 monozygotic pairs discordant for schizophrenia, as well as 17 pairs of monozygotic control twins. Twenty-two discordant sibling-pairs and 56 pairs of unrelated control subjects were included to assess the extent of genetic control over these structures. Within-pair similarities for whole brain volume increased as pair members were more closely related genetically (monozygotic twins > siblings > unrelated control subjects). Schizophrenic twins, whether from concordant or discordant pairs, had smaller whole brain volumes than control twins. The probands of discordant pairs showed more abnormalities in hippocampal, third and lateral ventricular volumes than concordant twins. Whole brain volume is under high genetic control and smaller whole brain volume is a reflection of the genetic liability to develop schizophrenia. The variation in hippocampal and ventricular volumes within discordant monozygotic pairs indicates a role for environmental factors in determining these volume abnormalities in schizophrenia. Such factors may also underlie the more extensive morphometric deviations in patients from monozygotic discordant twins than in their counterparts from concordant twins.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)454-461
Number of pages8
JournalBiological Psychiatry
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sep 2004
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was sponsored by a travel grant (Neeltje van Haren) of the Netherlands Organization of Scientific Research (NWO: R56–465), Wellcome Trust, and Stanley Medical Research Institute. Marco Picchioni and Colm McDonald are supported by the Wellcome Trust (064971).


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