• Kong, X., Postema, M., Carrion Castillo, A., Pepe, A., Crivello, F., Joliot, M., Mazoyer, B., Fisher, S. E., & Francks, C. (2020). Large-scale phenomic and genomic analysis of brain asymmetrical skew. bioRxiv Preprints, 756395. doi:10.1101/756395.


    Brain torque has been claimed to be human-specific. However, the functional significance and developmental mechanisms are unknown. Here we carried out the largest-ever analysis of global brain asymmetry in magnetic resonance imaging data. Three population datasets were used, the UK Biobank (N = 39,678), Human Connectome Project (N = 1,113) and BIL&GIN (N = 453). At the population level, there was an anterior and dorsal skew of the right hemisphere, relative to the left. Both skews were associated independently with handedness, and various regional grey and white matter metrics oppositely in the two hemispheres, as well as other variables related to cognitive functions, sociodemographic factors, and physical and mental health. The two skews showed SNP-based heritabilities of 4-13%, but also substantial polygenicity in causal mixture model analysis, and no individually significant loci were found in GWAS for either skew. Gene-based association analysis identified three genes tentatively associated with vertical skew, including PLEC which encodes a large cytoskeleton-linked protein. There was evidence for a significant genetic correlation (rg=-0.40, p=0.0075) between horizontal brain skew and Autism Spectrum Disorder. These results provide the first large-scale description of population-average brain skews and their inter-individual variations, their replicable associations with handedness, and insights into biological and other factors which associate with brain asymmetry.

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  • Sha, Z., Schijven, D., Carrion Castillo, A., Joliot, M., Mazoyer, B., Fisher, S. E., Crivello, F., & Francks, C. (2020). The genetic architecture of structural left-right asymmetry of the human brain. bioRxiv Preprints. doi:10.1101/2020.06.30.179721.


    Left-right hemispheric asymmetry is an important aspect of healthy brain organization for many functions including language, and can be altered in cognitive and psychiatric disorders1-8. No mechanism has yet been identified for establishing the human brain's left-right axis9. We performed multivariate genome-wide association scanning (mvGWAS) of cortical regional surface area and thickness asymmetries, and subcortical volume asymmetries, using data from 32,256 participants from the UK Biobank. There were 21 significant loci affecting different aspects of brain asymmetry, with functional enrichment involving microtubule-related genes and embryonic brain expression. These findings are consistent with a known role of the cytoskeleton in left-right axis determination in other organs of invertebrates and frogs10-12. Genetic variants affecting brain asymmetry overlapped with those influencing autism, educational attainment and schizophrenia.

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