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Auditory cortex anatomy is related to reading skills and is similar among family members

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Poster B123 in Poster Session B, Tuesday, October 24, 3:30 - 5:15 pm CEST, Espace Vieux-Port

Olga Kepinska1, Florence Bouhali2, Giulio Degano3, Hiroko Tanaka4, Fumiko Hoeft5, Narly Golestani1,3; 1University of Vienna, 2Université d’Aix-Marseille, 3University of Geneva, 4University of Arizona, Tucson, 5University of Connecticut

The development of high-level cognitive skills depends on a complex interplay between genetic and environmental factors, and is related to brain structural and functional indices. In the context of brain-behavior relationships, inter-individual variability in both language and music skills has been repeatedly associated with the structure of the auditory cortex, and in particular with the shape, size and asymmetry of the transverse temporal gyrus(i) (TTG) (Benner et al., 2017; Turker et al., 2021). For example, TTG anatomy has been associated with reading skills and pre-reading abilities (Altarelli et al., 2014; Kuhl et al., 2020; Sutherland et al., 2012). TTG shows high variability in shape and size, some individuals having one single gyrus (also referred to as Heschl’s gyrus, HG), others presenting duplications (with a common stem or fully separated) or multiplication of TTG. Past studies have established moderate to high heritability of TTG morphology (Eyler et al., 2012; Grasby et al., 2020), but its anatomy has been also shown to be related to experiential variables, such as bilingualism (Ressel et al., 2012). Both genetic and environmental influences on children’s cognition, behavior, and brain can to some to degree be traced back to familial and parental factors. Given the importance of the TTG for a large array of high-level cognitive skills, including reading, studying its anatomical characteristics across different family members and generations can give us a better understanding of familial transmission of brain structure and the associated phenotypes. Here, using a unique MRI dataset of parents and children (135 individuals from 36 families), we ask whether the anatomy of the auditory cortex is related to reading measures across different families, and whether there are intergenerational effects on TTG anatomy. Furthermore, we ask whether auditory regions of family members are similar overall, or whether there are specific markers showing more familial overlap than others. For this, we performed detailed, automatic segmentations of HG and of additional TTG(s) when present, extracting volume, surface area, thickness and shape of the gyri. We tested for relationships between these and reading skill, and assessed their degree of familial similarity and intergenerational transmission effects. We found that volume and area of all identified TTGs combined was positively related to reading scores, both in children and adults. With respect to intergenerational similarities in the structure of the auditory cortex, we identified similarities in HG anatomy for mother-child pairs, and in the lateralization of all TTG for father-child pairs. Mothers’ HG was similar to children’s HG in terms of cortical thickness and shape; fathers’ TTG-lateralization was similar to children’s TTG-lateralization of cortical surface area. Both the HG and TTG-lateralization findings were significantly more likely for parent-child dyads than for unrelated adult-child pairs, demonstrating that the observed effects were not due to generic similarities of the investigated brain regions across individuals. Our results suggest intergenerational transmission of specific structural features of the auditory cortex; these may arise from genetics and/or from shared environment.

Topic Areas: Reading, Genetics

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