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The University of Minnesota has played an important role in the resurgence and eventual mainstreaming of human behavioral genetics in psychology and psychiatry. We describe this history in the context of three major movements in behavioral genetics: (1) radical eugenics in the early 20th century, (2) resurgence of human behavioral genetics in the 1960s, largely using twin and adoption designs to obtain more precise estimates of genetic and environmental influences on individual differences in behavior; and (3) use of measured genotypes to understand behavior. University of Minnesota scientists made significant contributions especially in (2) and (3) in the domains of cognitive ability, drug abuse and mental health, and endophenotypes. These contributions are illustrated through a historical perspective of major figures and events in behavioral genetics.
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and obesity are positively associated, with increasing evidence that they share genetic risk factors. Our aim was to examine whether these findings apply to both types of ADHD symptoms for female and male adolescents. We used data from 791 girl and 735 boy twins ages 16−17 years to examine sex-specific phenotypic correlations between the presence of ADHD symptoms and overweight/obese status. For correlations exceeding .20, we then fit bivariate twin models to estimate the genetic and environmental correlations between the presence of ADHD symptoms and overweight/obese status. ADHD symptoms and height/weight were parent- and self-reported, respectively. Phenotypic correlations were .30 (girls) and .08 (boys) for inattention and overweight/obese status and .23 (girls) and .14 (boys) for hyperactivity/impulsivity and overweight/obese status. In girls, both types of ADHD symptoms and overweight/obese status were highly heritable, with unique environmental effects comprising the remaining variance. Furthermore, shared genetic effects explained most of the phenotypic correlations in girls. Results suggest that the positive association of both types of ADHD symptoms with obesity may be stronger in girls than boys. Further, in girls, these associations may stem primarily from shared genetic factors.
It is crucial to understand the genetic mechanisms and biological pathways underlying the relationship between obesity and serum lipid levels. Structural equation models (SEMs) were constructed to calculate heritability for body mass index (BMI), total cholesterol (TC), triglyceride (TG), high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), and the genetic connections between BMI and the four classes of lipids using 1197 pairs of twins from the Chinese National Twin Registry (CNTR). Bivariate genomewide association studies (GWAS) were performed to identify genetic variants associated with BMI and lipids using the records of 457 individuals, and the results were further validated in 289 individuals. The genetic background affecting BMI may differ by gender, and the heritability of males and females was 71% (95% CI [.66, .75]) and 39% (95% CI [.15, .71]) respectively. BMI was positively correlated with TC, TG and LDL-C in phenotypic and genetic correlation, while negatively correlated with HDL-C. There were gender differences in the correlation between BMI and lipids. Bivariate GWAS analysis and validation stage found 7 genes (LOC105378740, LINC02506, CSMD1, MELK, FAM81A, ERAL1 and MIR144) that were possibly related to BMI and lipid levels. The significant biological pathways were the regulation of cholesterol reverse transport and the regulation of high-density lipoprotein particle clearance (p < .001). BMI and blood lipid levels were affected by genetic factors, and they were genetically correlated. There might be gender differences in their genetic correlation. Bivariate GWAS analysis found MIR144 gene and its related biological pathways may influence obesity and lipid levels.
The role of superficial anastomoses in the survival of fetuses with twin-twin transfusion syndrome after fetoscopic laser photocoagulation is unknown. This study aimed to evaluate how superficial anastomoses affect the circulatory dynamics of both fetuses with twin-twin transfusion syndrome using ductus venous Doppler waveforms. We included all twin-twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS) patients who underwent fetoscopic laser photocoagulation in our institution from 2006 to 2019; fetal demise cases after fetoscopic laser photocoagulation were excluded. We recorded ductus venous Doppler waveforms on the same day or one day before fetoscopic laser photocoagulation and one day after fetoscopic laser photocoagulation and measured the ductus venous pulsatility index and velocity ratios. We compared these z-scores of donor and recipient twins between a group without superficial anastomoses and the groups with arterio-arterial or veno-venous anastomoses. A total of 115 surviving TTTS placentas after fetoscopic laser photocoagulation were analyzed. The ductus venous pulsatility index and all ratios were better in recipient twins with arterio-arterial anastomoses than in those without. The a-wave-related ratios were better in recipient twins with veno-venous anastomoses than in those without. Superficial anastomoses reduced the blood volume and arterio-arterial anastomoses protected the diastolic cardiac function in recipient twin-twin transfusion syndrome twins before fetoscopic laser photocoagulation. Superficial anastomoses in TTTS equilibrate blood pressure between donor and recipient twins.
Quadruplets are at elevated physical risks at prenatal, perinatal, and postnatal levels, relative to twins. A brief review of this area is followed by discussion of a female quadruplet with three co-quadruplet brothers. Next, several timely twin research reports are examined. The topics include antenatal corticosteroids and twins’ neonatal outcomes, the meaning of fatherhood in families with twins, what doppelgängers (look-alikes) reveal about physical and behavioral similarity, and monozygotic (MZ) co-twin discordance for asymmetric pigmented paravenous chorioretinal atrophy. A lawsuit involving alleged cheating on a medical school examination by identical twins is also reviewed. General interest stories cover opposite-sex twin Holocaust survivors, twin models at a Gucci fashion show, twins with different fathers, reunited female twins who entered the same convent, the death of an MZ female twin soldier during training, and the surgical separation of conjoined twins in Brazil.