University of Vermont

Garavan Coauthors Science Study on Brain Activity Networks

Hugh Garavan, Ph.D.
UVM Associate Professor of Psychiatry Hugh Garavan, Ph.D. (Photo: COM Design & Photography)

A study that compared brain imaging and gene expression data from a large sample of adolescents conducted by Stanford University School of Medicine researchers and colleagues including University of Vermont neuroscientist Hugh Garavan, Ph.D., has found evidence that genetic expression correlates with functional brain activity.

The Stanford scientists worked in collaboration with the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, Wash., and the IMAGEN Consortium, a multicenter European project for which Garavan served as the project leader in Dublin, Ireland.

According to Garavan, whose earlier studies in Nature and Nature Neuroscience featured IMAGEN Consortium data that pointed to potential underlying causes for addiction in teens, this latest study investigated patterns of brain connectivity and their underlying genetics. Using functional MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), the researchers were able to examine the brain at rest and view the networks of regions of the brain, which were defined by showing inter-regional correlations.

“Even though an individual might be perfectly still, the brain regions associated with motor control of the left side of your body are correlated with regions associated with motor control of the right side of your body,” explains Garavan.

He adds that the brain also has networks associated with language, visual processing, etc.

The IMAGEN study, says Garavan, was used to demonstrate that genetic variation among the study’s subjects was related to brain measures of connectivity.

“One part of this new Science paper sought to replicate effects with data from IMAGEN’s large dataset that I helped collect back in Dublin,” says Garavan. “This paper shows that patterns of gene expression in the brain map onto these networks – it shows that they are heritable and gives insight into what creates these networks.”

Link to the Stanford Medicine story. Read the Science study.