Heritability of human brain functioning as assessed by electroencephalosraphy

C. E.M. Van Beijsterveldt, P. C.M. Molenaar, E. J.C. De Geus, D. I. Boomsma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

203 Scopus citations


To study the genetic and environmental contributions to individual differences in CNS functioning, the electroencephalogram (EEG) was measured in 213 twin pairs age 16 years. EEG was measured in 91 MZ and 122 DZ twins. To quantify sex differences in the genetic architecture, EEG was measured in female and male same-sex twins and in opposite-sex twins. EEG was recorded on 14 scalp positions during quiet resting with eyes closed. Spectral powers were calculated for four frequency bands: delta, theta, alpha, and beta. Twin correlations pointed toward high genetic influences for all these powers and scalp locations. Model fitting confirmed these findings; the largest part of the variance of the EEG is explained by additive genetic factors. The averaged heritabilities for the delta, theta, alpha, and beta frequencies was 76%, 89%, 89%, and 86%, respectively. Multivariate analyses suggested that the same genes for EEG alpha rhythm were expressed in different brain areas in the left and right hemisphere. This study shows that brain functioning, as indexed by rhythmic brain-electrical activity, is one of the most heritable characteristics in humans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)562-573
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Human Genetics
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1996

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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