P300 event-related potential heritability in monozygotic and dizygotic twins

Joanna Katsanis, William G. Iacono, Matthew K. McGue, Scott R. Carlson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

117 Scopus citations


The present study examined the heritability of the P3 waveform and the N1, P2, and N2 components by assessing the visual event-related potential (ERP) of 30 monozygotic (MZ) and 34 dizygotic (DZ) twin pairs. Electroencephalogram activity was recorded from Pz, P3, and P4 scalp sites while individuals performed a reaction time task involving two conditions differing in difficulty. Genetic modeling indicated substantial genetic influence on P3 amplitude, P3 latency, and manual reaction time for the difficult condition. No significant heritability was found for the latency of P3 or manual reaction time for the easy condition, but P3 amplitude was heritable for this condition. The amplitude of the early components (N1, P2, and N2) was heritable, but no significant genetic influences were found for the latency of these components. Compared with the DZ twins, the greater similarity of the MZ pairs on the event-related potential measures was not due to their greater similarity in either head dimensions or mental ability, despite the facts that IQ scores were weakly correlated with P3 and N2 amplitude and that amplitude and latency were related to some measures of head size. These findings suggest that P3 amplitude and the amplitude of earlier ERP components are under partial genetic control, supporting the notion that these ERP components could perhaps be used to identify genetic risk for psychopathology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)47-58
Number of pages12
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1997


  • Event-related potential
  • Heritability
  • IQ
  • P3
  • Twins


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