Many aspects of brain processing are intimately linked to brain rhythms. Essentially all classical brain rhythms, i.e., delta, theta, alpha, beta, and sleep waves, are highly heritable. This renders brain rhythms an interesting intermediate phenotype for cognitive and behavioral traits. One brain rhythm that has been particularly strongly linked to cognition is the gamma rhythm: it is involved in attention, short-and long-term memory, and conscious awareness. It has been described in sensory and motor cortices, association and control structures, and the hippocampus. In contrast to most other brain rhythms, the gamma frequency highly depends on stimulus and task conditions, suggesting a low heritability. However, the heritability of gamma has not been assessed. Here, we show that visually induced gamma-band synchronization in humans is strongly genetically determined. Eighty twin subjects (20 monozygotic and 20 dizygotic twin pairs) viewed a moving sinusoidal grating while their brain activity was recorded using magnetoencephalography. The stimulus induced spectrally confined gamma-band activity in sensors over visual cortex in all subjects, with individual peak frequencies ranging from 45 to 85 Hz. Gamma-band peak frequencies were highly correlated across monozygotic twins (r = 0.88), but not across dizygotic twins (r = 0.32) or unrelated subjects (r = 0.02). This implies a heritability of the gamma-band frequency of 91%. This strong genetic determination suggests that gamma-related cognitive functions are under close genetic control. © 2012 the authors.
- Netherlands Twin Register (NTR)