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Brain imaging studies have shown altered amygdala activity during emotion processing in children and adolescents with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and conduct disorder (CD) compared to typically developing children and adolescents (TD). Here we aimed to assess whether aggression-related subtypes (reactive and proactive aggression) and callous-unemotional (CU) traits predicted variation in amygdala activity and skin conductance (SC) response during emotion processing.
We included 177 participants (n = 108 cases with disruptive behaviour and/or ODD/CD and n = 69 TD), aged 8–18 years, across nine sites in Europe, as part of the EU Aggressotype and MATRICS projects. All participants performed an emotional face-matching functional magnetic resonance imaging task.
Differences between cases and TD in affective processing, as well as specificity of activation patterns for aggression subtypes and CU traits, were assessed. Simultaneous SC recordings were acquired in a subsample (n = 63). Cases compared to TDs showed higher amygdala activity in response to negative faces (fearful and angry) v. shapes. Subtyping cases according to aggression-related subtypes did not significantly influence on amygdala activity; while stratification based on CU traits was more sensitive and revealed decreased amygdala activity in the high CU group. SC responses were significantly lower in cases and negatively correlated with CU traits, reactive and proactive aggression.
Our results showed differences in amygdala activity and SC responses to emotional faces between cases with ODD/CD and TD, while CU traits moderate both central (amygdala) and peripheral (SC) responses. Our insights regarding subtypes and trait-specific aggression could be used for improved diagnostics and personalized treatment.
In 1984, Hrubec and Robinette published what was arguably the first review of the role of twins in medical research. The authors acknowledged a growing distinction between two categories of twin studies: those aimed at assessing genetic contributions to disease and those aimed at assessing environmental contributions while controlling for genetic variation. They concluded with a brief section on recently founded twin registries that had begun to provide unprecedented access to twins for medical research. Here we offer an overview of the twin research that, in our estimation, best represents the field has progress since 1984. We start by summarizing what we know about twinning. We then focus on the value of twin study designs to differentiate between genetic and environmental influences on health and on emerging applications of twins in multiple areas of medical research. We finish by describing how twin registries and networks are accelerating twin research worldwide.
Neurodevelopment is sensitive to genetic and pre/postnatal environmental influences. These effects are likely mediated by epigenetic factors, yet current knowledge is limited. Longitudinal twin studies can delineate the link between genetic and environmental factors, epigenetic state at birth and neurodevelopment later in childhood. Building upon our study of the Peri/postnatal Epigenetic Twin Study (PETS) from gestation to 6 years of age, here we describe the PETS 11-year follow-up in which we will use neuroimaging and cognitive testing to examine the relationship between early-life environment, epigenetics and neurocognitive outcomes in mid-childhood. Using a within-pair twin model, the primary aims are to (1) identify early-life epigenetic correlates of neurocognitive outcomes; (2) determine the developmental stability of epigenetic effects and (3) identify modifiable environmental risk factors. Secondary aims are to identify factors influencing gut microbiota between 6 and 11 years of age to investigate links between gut microbiota and neurodevelopmental outcomes in mid-childhood. Approximately 210 twin pairs will undergo an assessment at 11 years of age. This includes a direct child cognitive assessment, multimodal magnetic resonance imaging, biological sampling, anthropometric measurements and a range of questionnaires on health and development, behavior, dietary habits and sleeping patterns. Data from complementary data sources, including the National Assessment Program — Literacy and Numeracy and the Australian Early Development Census, will also be sought. Following on from our previous focus on relationships between growth, cardiovascular health and oral health, this next phase of PETS will significantly advance our understanding of the environmental interactions that shape the developing brain.
Twins Research Australia (TRA) is a community of twins and researchers working on health research to benefit everyone, including twins. TRA leads multidisciplinary research through the application of twin and family study designs, with the aim of sustaining long-term twin research that, both now and in the future, gives back to the community. This article summarizes TRA’s recent achievements and future directions, including new methodologies addressing causation, linkage to health, economic and educational administrative datasets and to geospatial data to provide insight into health and disease. We also explain how TRA’s knowledge translation and exchange activities are key to communicating the impact of twin studies to twins and the wider community. Building researcher capability, providing registry resources and partnering with all key stakeholders, particularly the participants, are important for how TRA is advancing twin research to improve health outcomes for society. TRA provides researchers with open access to its vibrant volunteer membership of twins, higher order multiples (multiples) and families who are willing to consider participation in research. Established four decades ago, this resource facilitates and supports research across multiple stages and a breadth of health domains.
Monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins participate in research that partitions variance in health, disease, and behavior into genetic and environmental components. However, there are other innovative roles for twins in medical research. One such way is involving MZ and/or DZ twins in co-twin control-designed randomized controlled trials (RCTs). To our knowledge, no reviews have been conducted that summarizes the involvement of twins in RCTs. Therefore, we conducted a systematic literature search using the U.S. Clinical Trials Database, NHS electronic databases, MEDLINE, EMBASE, and PsychINFO for RCTs on publications involving MZ and/or DZ twins as RCT participants. Out of the 186,027 clinical trials registered in the U.S. clinical trial register ClinicaTrails.gov, only six RCTs used twins as participants. From 1,598 articles identified in our search, 50 peer-reviewed English language publications met our pre-defined inclusion criteria. Sample sizes for RCTs have ranged from a total number of participants from 2 to 1,162; however, 32 (64%) studies had a sample size of 100 or less, and of those, 12 (24%) had fewer than 10. Both MZ and DZ twins have been recruited to the RCTs. In most instances (33/50) each twin from a pair were assigned to different study arms. Most of those studies included MZ twins only. Despite the methodological advantages, the use of MZ and DZ twins as participants in interventional RCTs appeared limited. The continuous development of innovative twin designs, especially RCTs, indicates that twin research can extend beyond the more widely recognized heritability estimates.
Accurate weed emergence models are valuable tools for scheduling planting, cultivation, and herbicide applications. Multiple models predicting giant ragweed emergence have been developed, but none have been validated in diverse crop rotation and tillage systems, which have the potential to influence weed emergence patterns. This study evaluated the performance of published giant ragweed emergence models across various crop rotations and spring tillage dates in southern Minnesota. Across experiments, the most robust model was a mixed-effects Weibull (flexible sigmoidal function) model predicting emergence in relation to hydrothermal time accumulation with a base temperature of 4.4 C, a base soil matric potential of −2.5 MPa, and two random effects determined by overwinter growing degree days (GDD) (10 C) and precipitation accumulated during seedling recruitment. The deviations in emergence between individual plots and the fixed-effects model were distinguished by the positive association between the lower horizontal asymptote (Drop) and maximum daily soil temperature during seedling recruitment. This finding indicates that crops and management practices that increase soil temperature will have a shorter lag phase at the start of giant ragweed emergence compared with practices promoting cool soil temperatures. Thus, crops with early-season crop canopies such as perennial crops and crops planted in early spring and in narrow rows will likely have a slower progression of giant ragweed emergence. This research provides a valuable assessment of published giant ragweed emergence models and illustrates that accurate emergence models can be used to time field operations and improve giant ragweed control across diverse cropping systems.
In the midwestern United States, biotypes of giant ragweed resistant to multiple herbicide biochemical sites of action have been identified. Weeds with resistance to multiple herbicides reduce the utility of existing herbicides and necessitate the development of alternative weed control strategies. In two experiments in southeastern Minnesota, we determined the effect of six 3 yr crop-rotation systems containing corn, soybean, wheat, and alfalfa on giant ragweed seedbank depletion and emergence patterns. The six crop-rotation systems included continuous corn, soybean–corn–corn, corn–soybean–corn, soybean–wheat–corn, soybean–alfalfa–corn, and alfalfa–alfalfa–corn. The crop-rotation system had no effect on the amount of seedbank depletion when a zero-weed threshold was maintained, with an average of 96% of the giant ragweed seedbank being depleted within 2 yr. Seedbank depletion occurred primarily through seedling emergence in all crop-rotation systems. However, seedling emergence tended to account for more of the seedbank depletion in rotations containing only corn or soybean compared with rotations with wheat or alfalfa. Giant ragweed emerged early across all treatments, with on average 90% emergence occurring by June 4. Duration of emergence was slightly longer in established alfalfa compared with other cropping systems. These results indicate that corn and soybean rotations are more conducive to giant ragweed emergence than rotations including wheat and alfalfa, and that adopting a zero-weed threshold is a viable approach to depleting the weed seedbank in all crop-rotation systems.
Twins can help researchers disentangle the roles of genes from those of the environment on human traits, health, and diseases. To realize this potential, the Australian Twin Registry (ATR), University of Melbourne, and the Charles Perkins Centre (CPC), University of Sydney, established a collaboration to form the Twins Research Node, a highly interconnected research facility dedicated specifically to research involving twins. This collaboration aims to foster the adoption of twin designs as important tools for research in a range of health-related domains. The CPC hosted their Twins Research Node's launch seminar entitled ‘Double the power of your research with twin studies’, in which experienced twin researchers described how twin studies are supporting scientific discoveries and careers. The launch also featured twin pairs who have actively participated in research through the ATR. Researchers at the CPC were surveyed before the event to gauge their level of understanding and interest in utilizing twin research. This article describes the new Twins Research Node, discusses the survey's main results and reports on the launch seminar.
We analyzed birth order differences in means and variances of height and body mass index (BMI) in monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins from infancy to old age. The data were derived from the international CODATwins database. The total number of height and BMI measures from 0.5 to 79.5 years of age was 397,466. As expected, first-born twins had greater birth weight than second-born twins. With respect to height, first-born twins were slightly taller than second-born twins in childhood. After adjusting the results for birth weight, the birth order differences decreased and were no longer statistically significant. First-born twins had greater BMI than the second-born twins over childhood and adolescence. After adjusting the results for birth weight, birth order was still associated with BMI until 12 years of age. No interaction effect between birth order and zygosity was found. Only limited evidence was found that birth order influenced variances of height or BMI. The results were similar among boys and girls and also in MZ and DZ twins. Overall, the differences in height and BMI between first- and second-born twins were modest even in early childhood, while adjustment for birth weight reduced the birth order differences but did not remove them for BMI.
As herbicide-resistant weed populations become increasingly problematic in crop production, alternative strategies of weed control are necessary. Giant ragweed, one of the most competitive agricultural weeds in row crops, has evolved resistance to multiple herbicide biochemical sites of action within the plant, necessitating the development of new and integrated methods of weed control. This study assessed the quantity and duration of seed retention of giant ragweed grown in soybean fields and adjacent field margins. Seed retention of giant ragweed was monitored weekly during the 2012 to 2014 harvest seasons using seed collection traps. Giant ragweed plants produced an average of 1,818 seeds per plant, with 66% being potentially viable. Giant ragweed on average began shattering hard (potentially viable) and soft (nonviable) seeds September 12 and continued through October at an average rate of 0.75 and 0.44% of total seeds per day during September and October, respectively. Giant ragweed seeds remained on the plants well into the Minnesota soybean harvest season, with an average of 80% of the total seeds being retained on October 11, when Minnesota soybean harvest was approximately 75% completed in the years of the study. These results suggest that there is a sufficient amount of time to remove escaped giant ragweed from production fields and field margins before the seeds shatter by managing weed seed dispersal before or at crop harvest. Controlling weed seed dispersal has potential to manage herbicide-resistant giant ragweed by limiting replenishment of the weed seed bank.
A trend toward greater body size in dizygotic (DZ) than in monozygotic (MZ) twins has been suggested by some but not all studies, and this difference may also vary by age. We analyzed zygosity differences in mean values and variances of height and body mass index (BMI) among male and female twins from infancy to old age. Data were derived from an international database of 54 twin cohorts participating in the COllaborative project of Development of Anthropometrical measures in Twins (CODATwins), and included 842,951 height and BMI measurements from twins aged 1 to 102 years. The results showed that DZ twins were consistently taller than MZ twins, with differences of up to 2.0 cm in childhood and adolescence and up to 0.9 cm in adulthood. Similarly, a greater mean BMI of up to 0.3 kg/m2 in childhood and adolescence and up to 0.2 kg/m2 in adulthood was observed in DZ twins, although the pattern was less consistent. DZ twins presented up to 1.7% greater height and 1.9% greater BMI than MZ twins; these percentage differences were largest in middle and late childhood and decreased with age in both sexes. The variance of height was similar in MZ and DZ twins at most ages. In contrast, the variance of BMI was significantly higher in DZ than in MZ twins, particularly in childhood. In conclusion, DZ twins were generally taller and had greater BMI than MZ twins, but the differences decreased with age in both sexes.
We are analysing late-time (older than about 150 d past explosion) optical spectra of Type II-Plateau (IIP) supernovae (SNe), which are H-rich SNe that come from red supergiant (RSG) progenitors. The dataset includes nearly 100 spectra of about 40 objects, making this the largest sample of SN IIP nebular spectra ever investigated. Quantitative criteria from within the spectra themselves are employed to determine if an observation is truly nebular, and thus should be included in the study. We present the temporal evolution of the fluxes, shapes, and velocities of various emission lines (see, for example, Fig. 1). These measured values are also compared to photometric data in order to search for correlations that can allow us to gain insight into the diversity of RSG progenitors and learn more about the details of the explosion itself.
For over 100 years, the genetics of human anthropometric traits has attracted scientific interest. In particular, height and body mass index (BMI, calculated as kg/m2) have been under intensive genetic research. However, it is still largely unknown whether and how heritability estimates vary between human populations. Opportunities to address this question have increased recently because of the establishment of many new twin cohorts and the increasing accumulation of data in established twin cohorts. We started a new research project to analyze systematically (1) the variation of heritability estimates of height, BMI and their trajectories over the life course between birth cohorts, ethnicities and countries, and (2) to study the effects of birth-related factors, education and smoking on these anthropometric traits and whether these effects vary between twin cohorts. We identified 67 twin projects, including both monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins, using various sources. We asked for individual level data on height and weight including repeated measurements, birth related traits, background variables, education and smoking. By the end of 2014, 48 projects participated. Together, we have 893,458 height and weight measures (52% females) from 434,723 twin individuals, including 201,192 complete twin pairs (40% monozygotic, 40% same-sex dizygotic and 20% opposite-sex dizygotic) representing 22 countries. This project demonstrates that large-scale international twin studies are feasible and can promote the use of existing data for novel research purposes.
All same-sex dizygotic (DZ) twins and approximately one-third of monozygotic (MZ) twin pairs have separate placentas, making it impossible to use the number of placentas to determine zygosity. Zygosity determination is further complicated because incorrect assumptions are often made, such as that only DZ pairs have two placentas and that all MZ pairs are phenotypically identical. These assumptions, by twins, their families and health professionals, along with the lack of universal zygosity testing for same-sex twins, has led to confusion within the twin community, yet little research has been conducted with twins about their understanding and assumptions about zygosity. We aimed to explore and quantify understanding and assumptions about zygosity using twins attending an Australian twin festival. We recruited 91 twin pairs younger than 18 years of age and their parents, and 30 adult twin pairs who were all uncertain of their zygosity, to complete one pen and paper questionnaire and one online questionnaire about their assumed zygosity, reasons for their assumptions and the importance of accurate zygosity knowledge. Responses were compared with their true zygosity measured using a genetic test. We found a substantial proportion of parents and twins had been misinformed by their own parents or medical professionals, and that knowledge of their true zygosity status provided peace of mind and positive emotional responses. For these reasons we propose universal zygosity testing of same-sex twins as early in life as possible and an increase in education of medical professionals, twins and families of twins about zygosity issues.
Shorter telomere length (TL) has found to be associated with lower birth weight and with lower cognitive ability and psychiatric disorders. However, the direction of causation of these associations and the extent to which they are genetically or environmentally mediated are unclear. Within-pair comparisons of monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins can throw light on these questions. We investigated correlations of within pair differences in telomere length, IQ, and anxiety/depression in an initial sample from Brisbane (242 MZ pairs, 245 DZ same sex (DZSS) pairs) and in replication samples from Amsterdam (514 MZ pairs, 233 DZSS pairs) and Melbourne (19 pairs selected for extreme high or low birth weight difference). Intra-pair differences of birth weight and telomere length were significantly correlated in MZ twins, but not in DZSS twins. Greater intra-pair differences of telomere length were observed in the 10% of MZ twins with the greatest difference in birth weight compared to the bottom 90% in both samples and also in the Melbourne sample. Intra-pair differences of telomere length and IQ, but not of TL and anxiety/depression, were correlated in MZ twins, and to a smaller extent in DZSS twins. Our findings suggest that the same prenatal effects that reduce birth weight also influence telomere length in MZ twins. The association between telomere length and IQ is partly driven by the same prenatal effects that decrease birth weight.