"Much of your risk for disease is written in your DNA, so the genome is a good place to look for new drug targets," said Thompson, who in 2009 founded a research network known as Project ENIGMA
to pool brain scans and DNA from 26,000 people worldwide.
The four investigators recruited brain-imaging labs around the world to pool their brain scans and genomic data, and Project ENIGMA (Enhancing Neuro Imaging Genetics through Meta-Analysis) was born.
"By sharing our data with Project ENIGMA, we created a sample large enough to reveal clear patterns in genetic variation and show how these changes physically alter the brain."
In this study, Project ENIGMA researchers measured the size of the brain and its memory centers in thousands of MRI images from 21,151 healthy people while simultaneously screening their DNA.
In poring over the data, Project ENIGMA researchers explored whether any genetic variations correlated to brain size.
Because disorders like Alzheimer's, autism and schizophrenia disrupt the brain's circuitry, Project ENIGMA
will next search for genes that influence how the brain is wired.