Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

The genetic architecture of brain structure and function is largely unknown. To investigate this, we carried out genome-wide association studies of 3,144 functional and structural brain imaging phenotypes from UK Biobank (discovery dataset 8,428 subjects). Here we show that many of these phenotypes are heritable. We identify 148 clusters of associations between single nucleotide polymorphisms and imaging phenotypes that replicate at P < 0.05, when we would expect 21 to replicate by chance. Notable significant, interpretable associations include: iron transport and storage genes, related to magnetic susceptibility of subcortical brain tissue; extracellular matrix and epidermal growth factor genes, associated with white matter micro-structure and lesions; genes that regulate mid-line axon development, associated with organization of the pontine crossing tract; and overall 17 genes involved in development, pathway signalling and plasticity. Our results provide insights into the genetic architecture of the brain that are relevant to neurological and psychiatric disorders, brain development and ageing.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





210 - 216


Aging, Biological Specimen Banks, Brain, Datasets as Topic, Epidermal Growth Factor, Extracellular Matrix, Female, Genome-Wide Association Study, Heredity, Humans, Iron, Male, Neuroimaging, Neuronal Plasticity, Phenotype, Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide, Putamen, Signal Transduction, United Kingdom, White Matter