ENIGMA Study Finds Genetic Variants that Affect Brain Structure

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An international imaging study led by researchers from NUI Galway identified genetic factors that may influence the size of brain structures.

The ENIGMA (Enhancing Neuro Imaging Genetics through Meta-Analysis) consortium of 300 researchers analyzed genetic data and MRI scans from over 30,000 people, studying the size and structure of sub-cortical brain regions that are implicated in neurological and mental health disorders.

One notable finding included a gene variant within the KTN1 gene that encodes for kinectin, which affects the size of the putamen, which is partly responsible for movement and learning and is implicated in Parkinson’s disease. The study also found several gene variants associated with hippocampal volume that may be tied to schizophrenia.

"Knowledge about the genetic basis of these structures provides important insights into how the brain develops", said Gary Donohoe, PhD, professor of psychology at NUI Galway, according to Medical News Today. "These insights are important both to understanding normal human development and to understanding the basis of neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders such as schizophrenia, Alzheimer's disease and epilepsy. Given the likelihood that thousands of variants are involved, large scale international efforts such as this study are an important step in unraveling this genetic and biological complexity so as to develop new and better treatments."

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ENIGMA Study Finds Genetic Variants that Affect Brain Structure

An international study, which included researchers from NUI Galway, has identified significant genetic factors that influence the size of structures within the brain. It is hoped these new insights may help scientists better understand disorders such as schizophrenia, Alzheimer's disease and epilepsy. The research was published in Nature magazine.

NUI Galway professor of psychology, Professor Gary Donohoe, led the Irish contribution to the study, which involved a consortium of almost 300 scientists from 193 institutes - including NUI Galway. The consortium, known as the ENIGMA (Enhancing Neuro Imaging Genetics through Meta-Analysis), shared results from analyses of genetic data and MRI scans from more than 30,000 individuals worldwide.

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