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Intrapair Differences in Hippocampal Volume in Monozygotic Twins Discordant for the Risk for Anxiety and Depression

  • Eco J.C. de Geus
    Correspondence
    Address reprint requests to E.J.C. de Geus, Ph.D., Department of Biological Psychology, Vrije Universiteit, van der Boechorststraat 1, 1081 BT, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
    Affiliations
    Department of Biological Psychology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

    Centre for Neurogenomics and Cognitive Research, Vrije Universiteit Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
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  • Dennis van’t Ent
    Affiliations
    Department of Biological Psychology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
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  • Saskia P.A. Wolfensberger
    Affiliations
    Department of Psychiatry and Radiology, Research Institute Neuroscience, GGZ Buitenamstel, Vrije Universiteit Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
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  • Peter Heutink
    Affiliations
    Department of Biological Psychology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

    Centre for Neurogenomics and Cognitive Research, Vrije Universiteit Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
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  • Witte J.G. Hoogendijk
    Affiliations
    Department of Psychiatry and Radiology, Research Institute Neuroscience, GGZ Buitenamstel, Vrije Universiteit Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

    Centre for Neurogenomics and Cognitive Research, Vrije Universiteit Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
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  • Dorret I. Boomsma
    Affiliations
    Department of Biological Psychology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
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  • Dick J. Veltman
    Affiliations
    Department of Psychiatry and Radiology, Research Institute Neuroscience, GGZ Buitenamstel, Vrije Universiteit Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
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Published:November 30, 2006DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2006.07.026

      Background

      Current biological psychiatric models assume that genetic and environmental risk factors for anxiety and depression act on the same brain structures.

      Methods

      To test this assumption, we assessed brain anatomy by using optimized voxel-based morphometry on magnetic resonance images obtained in monozygotic twin pairs who were discordant for the risk of anxiety and depression (n = 10 pairs) and in monozygotic twin pairs who were concordant for high (n = 7 pairs) or low (n = 15 pairs) risk for anxiety and depression.

      Results

      We observed volume reductions in the temporal lobe, most notably in the left posterior hippocampal region in subjects at high risk for anxiety and depression, but exclusively in the intrapair comparison of discordant monozygotic twins. Because monozygotic twins are genetically identical, any discordance in their risk for anxiety and depression and hippocampal volume must arise from differential exposure to environmental influences. A group comparison between pairs concordant for low or high risk, which is more likely to reflect differences in genetic vulnerability, did not show reduced temporal-lobe and posterior hippocampal volumes in the pairs at high risk for anxiety and depression.

      Conclusions

      This pattern of results suggests that damage to temporal-lobe structures may be specific to an environmentally driven etiology of anxiety and depression.

      Key Words

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