From childhood into adolescence, the child's brain undergoes considerable changes in both structure and function. Twin studies are of great value to explore to what extent genetic and environmental factors explain individual differences in brain development and cognition. In The Netherlands, we initiated a longitudinal study in which twins, their siblings and their parents are assessed at three year intervals. The participants were recruited from The Netherlands Twin Register (NTR) and at baseline consisted of 112 families, with 9-year-old twins and an older sibling. Three years later, 89 families returned for follow-up assessment. Data collection included psychometric IQ tests, a comprehensive neuropsychological testing protocol, and parental and self-ratings of behavioral and emotional problems. Physical maturation was measured through assessment of Tanner stages. Hormonal levels (cortisol, luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, testosterone, and estrogens) were assessed in urine and saliva. Brain scans were acquired using 1.5 Tesla Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), which provided volumetric measures and measures of cortical thickness. Buccal swabs were collected for DNA isolation for future candidate gene and genomewide analysis studies. This article gives an overview of the study and the main findings. Participants will return for a third assessment when the twins are around 16 years old. Longitudinal twin-sibling studies that map brain development and cognitive function at well-defined ages aid in the understanding of genetic influences on normative brain development. © The Authors 2012.
- Netherlands Twin Register (NTR)