Twin–singleton developmental study of brain white matter anatomy

Neda Sadeghi, John H. Gilmore, Guido Gerig

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Twin studies provide valuable insights into the analysis of genetic and environmental factors influencing human brain development. However, these findings may not generalize to singletons due to differences in pre- and postnatal environments. One would expect the effect of these differences to be greater during the early years of life. To address this concern, we compare longitudinal diffusion data of white matter regions for 26 singletons and 76 twins (monozygotic and dizygotic) from birth to 2 years of age. We use nonlinear mixed effect modeling where the temporal changes in the diffusion parameters are described by the Gompertz function. The Gompertz function describes growth trajectory in terms of intuitive parameters: asymptote, delay, and speed. We analyzed fractional anisotropy (FA), axial diffusivity (AD), and radial diffusivity (RD) for 21 regions of interest (ROIs). These ROIs included areas in the association, projection, and commissural fiber tracts. We did not find any differences in the diffusion parameters between monozygotic and dizygotic twins. In addition, FA and RD showed no developmental differences between singletons and twins for the regions analyzed. However, the delay parameter of the Gompertz function of AD for the anterior limb of the internal capsule and anterior corona radiata was significantly different between singletons and twins. Further analysis indicated that the differences are small, and twins “catch up” by the first few months of life. These results suggest that the effects of differences of pre- and postnatal environments between twins and singletons are minimal on white matter development and disappear early in life. Hum Brain Mapp 38:1009–1024, 2017.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)1009-1024
    Number of pages16
    JournalHuman Brain Mapping
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - Feb 1 2017


    • DTI
    • Gompertz function
    • diffusion
    • early brain development
    • longitudinal brain imaging
    • nonlinear mixed effects modeling
    • twins
    • white matter

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Anatomy
    • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
    • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
    • Neurology
    • Clinical Neurology


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