Research suggests that frontal EEG asymmetry (FA) is a relatively stable trait associated with individual differences in dispositional affect (affective style) and liability to mood disorders. If FA is genetically determined, it can potentially serve as an endophenotype in genetic studies of temperament and mood disorders. The purpose of this study was to assess heritability of FA as well as alpha band EEG power measured at different frontal recording sites. Resting EEG data from a population-based sample of 246 young adult female twins including 73 monozygotic (MZ) and 50 dizygotic (DZ) pairs were analyzed using linear structural equation modeling. FA measured at mid-frontal locations (F3 and F4) showed low but significant heritability, suggesting that 27% of the observed variance can be accounted for by genetic factors. There was no evidence for genetic influences on FA measured at lateral-frontal (F7 and F8) locations. In contrast, alpha band power was highly heritable at all four frontal sites (85-87%). These findings suggest that: (1) genetic influences on FA are very modest and therefore FA has a limited utility as an endophenotype for genetic studies of mood disorders and (2) prefrontal neural circuitry underlying individual differences in affective style is characterized by high developmental plasticity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)289-295
Number of pages7
JournalBiological Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2006


  • EEG
  • Genetics
  • Hemispheric asymmetry
  • Heritability
  • Prefrontal cortex
  • Twins


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