Birth Weight and Adult IQ, but Not Anxious-Depressive Psychopathology, Are Associated with Cortical Surface Area: A Study in Twins
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AuthorCórdova Palomera, Aldo; Fatjó Vilas, Mar; Falcón, Carles; Bargalló Alabart, Nuria; Alemany Sierra, Silvia; Crespo Facorro, Benedicto; Nenadic, Igor; Fañanás Saura, Lourdes
Previous research suggests that low birth weight (BW) induces reduced brain cortical surface area (SA) which would persist until at least early adulthood. Moreover, low BW has been linked to psychiatric disorders such as depression and psychological distress, and to altered neurocognitive profiles.
We present novel findings obtained by analysing high-resolution structural MRI scans of 48 twins; specifically, we aimed: i) to test the BW-SA association in a middle-aged adult sample; and ii) to assess whether either depression/anxiety disorders or intellectual quotient (IQ) influence the BW-SA link, using a monozygotic (MZ) twin design to separate environmental and genetic effects.
Both lower BW and decreased IQ were associated with smaller total and regional cortical SA in adulthood. Within a twin pair, lower BW was related to smaller total cortical and regional SA. In contrast, MZ twin differences in SA were not related to differences in either IQ or depression/anxiety disorders.
The present study supports findings indicating that i) BW has a long-lasting effect on cortical SA, where some familial and environmental influences alter both foetal growth and brain morphology; ii) uniquely environmental factors affecting BW also alter SA; iii) higher IQ correlates with larger SA; and iv) these effects are not modified by internalizing psychopathology.