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Researchers fail to replicate influential neuroimaging genetics study

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These findings highlight the complexity of the relationship between genes and human brain function.

Neuroscientists have failed to replicate the findings of an influential study linking genetics to cognition.

Published in JNeurosci, the researchers highlight issues in the design, analysis and interpretation of the original study.

In 2012, Pinel et al. described in JNeurosci genetic variants associated with altered activation of language-related brain regions during reading and listening.

In particular, different single-nucleotide-polymorphisms (SNPs) of FOXP2 correlated with variation in task-based activation in left inferior frontal and precentral gyri, whereas a SNP at the KIAA0319/TTRAP/THEM2 locus was associated with variable functional asymmetry of the superior temporal sulcus. 

Now, using a much larger sample size of 427 participants, Uddén et al. report that they are unable to replicate those original claims.

“Despite demonstrating power to detect associations with substantially smaller effect sizes than those of the original report, we do not replicate any of the reported associations. Moreover, formal Bayesian analyses reveal substantial-to-strong evidence in support of the null hypothesis (no effect),” write the authors.

The new research challenges the assumption that functional neuroimaging studies are better suited to uncover genetic underpinnings of cognition than behavioural or psychological measures.

These findings also highlight the complexity of the relationship between genes and human brain function.

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