|Matthew Dublin is a senior writer at Genome Technology.|
Researchers at King's College London's Institute of Psychiatry are using data visualization software to study nature versus nurture in a geographical context.
The research team is headed up by the Twins Early Development Study at the MRC Social Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, which studied 13,000 pairs of both identical and non-identical twins born between 1994 and 1996.
When 6,759 of these twin pairs were 12 years old, the investigators conducted a number of tests to measure their behavioral traits, including hyperactivity, cognitive abilities, and IQ scores, as well as determined their geographic environments.
Using the open-source visualization software package spACE, the UK team created a color-coded map of genetic and environmental variation.
The spACE package is freely available for Windows, Mac OSX, and Linux.
Among the results revealed by the map, 60 percent of the difference in traits — such as classroom behavior — could be linked to genes. However, in South East London, it seems that environment plays more of a role than genes.
For more detail, their paper "Visual analysis of geocoded twin data puts nature and nurture on the map" appears in Molecular Psychiatry.