Testosterone is an important hormone in the sexual differentiation of the brain, contributing to differences in cognitive abilities between males and females. For instance, studies in clinical populations such as females with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) who are exposed to high levels of androgens in utero support arguments for prenatal testosterone effects on characteristics such as visuospatial cognition and behaviour. The comparison of opposite-sex (OS) and same-sex (SS) twin pairs can be used to help establish the role of prenatal testosterone. However, although some twin studies confirm a masculinizing effect of a male co-twin regarding for instance perception and cognition it remains unclear whether intra-uterine hormone transfer exists in humans. Our aim was to test the potential influences of testosterone on academic performance in OS twins. We compared ninth-grade test scores and teacher ratings of OS (n=1812) and SS (n=4054) twins as well as of twins and singletons (n=13,900) in mathematics, physics/chemistry, Danish, and English. We found that males had significantly higher test scores in mathematics than females (.06-.15 SD), whereas females performed better in Danish (.33-.49 SD), English (.20 SD), and neatness (.45-.64 SD). However, we did not find that OS females performed better in mathematics than SS and singleton females, nor did they perform worse either in Danish or English. Scores for OS and SS males were similar in all topics. In conclusion, this study did not provide evidence for a masculinization of female twins with male co-twins with regard to academic performance in adolescence.
Cites: Behav Genet. 1993 Jul;23(4):323-98240211
Cites: Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1993 Dec 15;90(24):11900-48265645
To explore the links between neurodevelopmental disorders - attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) - and personality in a population-based, genetically sensitive study of children.
A population-based sample of 1886 twins aged 9 and 12, enriched for childhood mental health problems, was recruited from the Child and Adolescent Twin Study in Sweden (CATSS). Parents were interviewed over the telephone using the Autism-Tics, AD/HD and other Comorbidities (A-TAC) inventory, and in a second step they rated their children according to the Junior Temperament and Character Inventory (JTCI).
ADHD was strongly correlated with novelty seeking, while ASD was correlated positively with harm avoidance and negatively with reward dependence. The strongest associations between personality traits and neurodevelopmental disorders were negative correlations between the character dimensions of self-directedness and cooperativeness and ADHD and ASD alike. Cross-twin cross-trait correlations between ADHD, ASD, and personality dimensions in monozygotic twins were more than double those in dizygotic twins, indicating a strong genetic effect behind the phenotypic covariation between neurodevelopmental disorders and personality.
Neurodevelopmental disorders are linked specifically to particular temperament profiles and generally to hampered development of the self-governing strategies referred to as "character." Poor self-agency and cooperation may be core functional outcomes in the separation of children with handicapping conditions from those with traits only reminiscent of neurodevelopmental disorders. The associations between neurodevelopmental disorders and personality are at least partly due to genetic effects influencing both conditions. As a consequence, personality must be broadly considered in neuropsychiatry, just as neuropsychiatric disorders and their genetic, neurodevelopmental, and cognitive susceptibilities have to be in personality research and clinical treatment.
Adolescent alcohol abuse is associated with adverse outcomes in early adulthood, but differences in familial status and structure and household and community environments correlate with both adolescent drinking and adverse adult outcomes and may explain their association. We studied drinking-discordant twin pairs to evaluate such confounds to ask: Will between-family associations replicate in within-family comparisons?
With longitudinal data from >3,000 Finnish twins, we associated drinking problems at age 18½ with 13 outcomes assessed at age 25; included were sustained substance abuse, poor health, physical symptoms, early coital debut, multiple sexual partners, life dissatisfaction, truncated education, and financial problems. We assessed associations among twins as individuals with linear regression adjusted for correlated observations; within-family analyses of discordant twin pairs followed, comparing paired means for adult outcomes among co-twins discordant for adolescent problem drinking. Defining discordance by extreme scores on self-reported problem drinking at age 18½ permitted parallel analyses of twins as individuals and discordant twin pairs. Alternate definitions of pair-wise discordance and difference score correlations across the entire twin sample yielded supplementary analyses.
All individual associations were highly significant for all definitions of discordance we employed. Depending on definitions of discordance, 11 to 13 comparisons of all drinking-discordant twin pairs and 3 to 6 comparisons of discordant monozygotic (MZ) twin pairs replicated between-family associations. For most outcomes, effect size attenuated from individual-level analysis to that within discordant MZ twin pairs providing evidence of partial confounding in associations reported in earlier research. The exception was the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ); at age 25, GHQ-12 had equivalent associations with age 18½ Rutgers Alcohol Problem Index across all comparisons.
Our analyses control for shared family background, and, partly or fully, for shared genes, to yield within-family replications and more compelling evidence than previously available that adolescent alcohol abuse disrupts transitions into early adulthood.
Traumatic or stressful life events have long been hypothesized to play a role in causing or precipitating obsessive-compulsive symptoms but the impact of these environmental factors has rarely been investigated using genetically informative designs. We tested whether a wide range of retrospectively-reported stressful life events (SLEs) influence the lifetime presence and severity of obsessive-compulsive symptoms (OCS) in a large Swedish population-based cohort of 22,084 twins. Multiple regression models examined whether differences in SLEs within twin pairs were significantly associated with differences in OCS. In the entire sample (i.e., both monozygotic [MZ] and dizygotic twin pairs), two SLEs factors, "abuse and family disruption" and "sexual abuse", were significantly associated with the severity of OCS even after controlling for depressive symptoms. Other SLEs factors were either not associated with OCS ("loss", "non-sexual assault") or were no longer associated with OCS after controlling for depression ("illness/injury"). Within MZ pair analyses, which effectively control for genetic and shared environmental effects, showed that only the "abuse and family disruption" factor remained independently related to within-pair differences in OCS severity, even after controlling for depressive symptoms. Despite being statistically significant, the magnitude of the associations was small; "abuse and family disruption" explained approximately 3% of the variance in OCS severity. We conclude that OCS are selectively associated with certain types of stressful life events. In particular, a history of interpersonal abuse, neglect and family disruption may make a modest but significant contribution to the severity of OCS. Further replication in longitudinal cohorts is essential before causality can be firmly established.
The influence of genetic factors for two personality dimensions was analyzed using data from 12,898 unselected twin pairs of the Swedish Twin Registry. The heritability index was 0.50 (men) and 0.58 (women) for psychosocial instability. Corresponding figures for psychosocial extraversion were 0.54 and 0.66. Thus, about half the phenotypic variation may be attributed to genetic factors.
This study examines gender-specific behavioral correlates of depressive symptoms using a secondary data analysis of a cross-sectional, population-based sample of older unlike-sex twins.
Unlike-sex twins aged 69-88 were identified through a national Swedish registry and sent a survey about health, including depressive symptoms (CES-D) and the frequency of engaging in physical, social and mental activities. A total of 605 complete twin pairs responded.
Depressive symptom scores were associated with frequency of engagement in physical and mental activities, but only in men. No statistically significant associations with depressive symptom scores for any of the three types of activities were found in women.
The results suggest that engaging in physical and mental activities may protect older men from developing depressive symptoms, but longitudinal data are needed to offer more conclusive findings on the role that physical, mental, and social activities play in the maintenance of psychological health in older men and women.
Previous research in the Swedish Adoption/Twin Study of Aging (SATSA) has found genetic influences on life events (R. Plomin, P. Lichtenstein, N.L. Pedersen, G.E. McClearn, & J.R. Nesselroade, 1990). The present study extends this finding by examining sex differences in genetic and environmental contributions to life events and by examining personality as a mediator of genetic influences on life events in SATSA. Analyses were based on 320 twin pairs, including identical and fraternal twins reared together and apart (mean age = 58.6 years). Controllable, desirable, and undesirable life events were revealed significant genetic variance for women. There was no significant genetic variance for either sex for uncontrollable events. Multivariate analyses of personality (as indexed by Neuroticism, Extraversion, and Openness to Experience) and life events suggest that all of the genetic variance on controllable, desirable, and undesirable life events for women is common to personality. Thus, in this sample of older adult women, genetic influences on life events appear to be entirely mediated by personality.
Asthma is a common childhood disease and several risk factors have been identified; however, the impact of genes and environment is not fully understood. The aim of the Swedish Twin study On Prediction and Prevention of Asthma (STOPPA) is to identify environmental (birth characteristics and early life) and genetic (including epigenetic) factors as determinants for asthmatic disease. Based on the Child and Adolescent Twin Study in Sweden (CATSS) (parental interview at 9 or 12 years, N ~23,900) and an asthma and/or wheezing algorithm, we identified a sample of monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) same-sexed twin pairs. The twin pairs were classified as asthma concordant (ACC), asthma discordant (ADC) and healthy concordant (HCC). A sample of 9- to 14-year-old twins and their parents were invited to participate in a clinical examination. Background characteristics were collected in questionnaires and obtained from the National Health Registers. A clinical examination was performed to test lung function and capacity (spirometry with reversibility test and exhaled nitric oxide) and collect blood (serology and DNA), urine (metabolites), feces (microbiota), and saliva (cortisol). In total, 376 twin pairs (752 individual twins) completed the study, response rate 52%. All participating twins answered the questionnaire and >90% participated in lung function testing, blood-, and saliva sampling. This article describes the design, recruitment, data collection, measures, and background characteristics, as well as ongoing and planned analyses in STOPPA. Potential gains of the study include the identification of biomarkers, the emergence of candidates for drug development, and new leads for prevention of asthma and allergic disease.
Coping styles may influence the perceived life stress experienced by an individual and, therefore, also be critical in the development of affective disorders. This study examined whether familial risk of affective disorder is associated with the use of maladaptive coping styles, in healthy individuals. One hundred twelve high-risk and 78 low-risk individuals were identified through nation-wide registers and invited to participate in an extensive psychiatric evaluation including the Coping Inventory for Stressful Situations. The high-risk individuals used more Emotion-oriented (p = 0.001) and Avoidance coping (p = 0.04) than individuals not at risk. Adjusted for gender, age, years of education, and recent stressful life events the high-risk individuals used more emotion-oriented coping (p = 0.03). In conclusion, maladaptive coping style may represent a trait marker for mood disorder improving maladaptive coping styles may be a target for selective prevention focusing on subgroups at high risk of developing an affective disorder.