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Comparison of Twin and Extended Pedigree Designs for Obtaining Heritability Estimates

Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, Richmond, VA, USA,
Publication Date:
Behav Genet
Volume Number:
Issue Number:
Behav Genet. 2015 Jul;45(4):461-6.
PubMed ID:
twin design, pedigree design, power, heritability, simulation
Appears in Collections:
U54 EB005149/EB/NIBIB NIH HHS/United States
R01 AG018384/AG/NIA NIH HHS/United States
R01 AG018386/AG/NIA NIH HHS/United States
R01 AG022381/AG/NIA NIH HHS/United States
R01 AG022982/AG/NIA NIH HHS/United States
R01 DA018673/DA/NIDA NIH HHS/United States
R01 NS052585/NS/NINDS NIH HHS/United States
R01 EB006758/EB/NIBIB NIH HHS/United States
T32 MH020030/MH/NIMH NIH HHS/United States
Generated Citation:
Docherty A.R., Kremen W.S., Panizzon M.S., Prom-Wormley E.C., Franz C.E., Lyons M.J., Eaves L.J., Neale M.C. Comparison of Twin and Extended Pedigree Designs for Obtaining Heritability Estimates. Behav Genet. 2015 Jul;45(4):461-6. PMID: 25894926. PMCID: PMC4459911.
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This study explores power assumptions relating to extended pedigree designs (EPD) and classical twin designs (CTD). We conducted statistical analyses to compare the power of the two designs for examining neuroimaging phenotypes, varying heritability and varying whether shared environmental variance is fixed or free. Results indicated that CTDs have more power to estimate heritability, with the exception of one condition: in EPDs, the power increases relative to CTDs when shared environmental variance contributes to sibling similarity only. We additionally show that assuming a priori that shared environmental effects play no role in a phenotype-as is commonly done in pedigree designs-can lead to substantially biased heritability estimates. General results indicate that both CTDs and EPDs obtain quite precise heritability estimates. Finally, we discuss methodological considerations relating to assumptions about age effects and shared environment.