School of Medicine Publications and Presentations

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Intracranial volume reflects the maximally attained brain size during development, and remains stable with loss of tissue in late life. It is highly heritable, but the underlying genes remain largely undetermined. In a genome-wide association study of 32,438 adults, we discovered five novel loci for intracranial volume and confirmed two known signals. Four of the loci are also associated with adult human stature, but these remained associated with intracranial volume after adjusting for height. We found a high genetic correlation with child head circumference (ρgenetic=0.748), which indicated a similar genetic background and allowed for the identification of four additional loci through meta-analysis (Ncombined = 37,345). Variants for intracranial volume were also related to childhood and adult cognitive function, Parkinson’s disease, and enriched near genes involved in growth pathways including PI3K–AKT signaling. These findings identify biological underpinnings of intracranial volume and provide genetic support for theories on brain reserve and brain overgrowth.


Original published version available at

Publication Title

Nat Neurosci.



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Mentor/PI Department

Office of Human Genetics



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