Heritability of Memory Functions and Related Brain Volumes: A Schizophrenia Spectrum Study of 214 Twins

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


  • sgaa066

    Final published version, 329 KB, PDF document

Memory performance is heritable and shares partial genetic etiology with schizophrenia. How the genetic overlap between memory and schizophrenia is related to intelligence (IQ) and brain volumes has not been formally tested using twin modeling.

A total of 214 twins were recruited nationwide by utilization of the Danish registers, including monozygotic and dizygotic twin pairs concordant or discordant for a schizophrenia spectrum disorder and healthy control pairs. Memory/IQ assessments and MRI scans were performed and structural equation modeling was applied to examine the genetic and environmental effects and to quantify associations with schizophrenia liability.

Significant heritability estimates were found for verbal, visual and working memory. Verbal and visual memory were associated with schizophrenia, and for visual memory the association was due to overlapping genetics. IQ was highly heritable, but only performance IQ was associated with schizophrenia. Genetic factors also contributed to total brain, right superior frontal, left rostral middle frontal and hippocampal volumes. Smaller total brain and hippocampal volumes were associated with schizophrenia, and for the left hippocampus this association was due to overlapping genetic factors. All 3 memory measures were associated with IQ, but only visual memory was associated with total brain and hippocampal volumes.

Specific memory measures and brain volumes were moderately heritable and showed overlap with schizophrenia liability, suggesting partially shared etiological influences. Our findings further suggest that factors impacting IQ also influence memory, whereas memory impairments and brain volume abnormalities appear to represent separate pathological processes in the pathway to schizophrenia.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbersgaa066
JournalSchizophrenia Bulletin Open
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 21 Nov 2020

ID: 255787890