Importance of Cohort Rather Than Cross-Sectional Studies to Determine the Heritability of Conditions

In a recent News Blog we showed how longitudinal studies could improve on cross-sectional epidemiological studies using alcohol-induced effects on lexical cognition, as our example.[1]

Cross-sectional twin studies may also under-estimate inheritability of disorders, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), because the control twin may be in a ‘yet to be diagnosed’ state. An interesting article in JAMA shows that the inheritability of ASD is much higher if the correct (longitudinal) method is used.[2] All studies agree that familial environment has hardly any effect on the probability of ASD.

— Richard Lilford, CLAHRC WM Director


  1. Lilford RJ. Alcohol and its Effects. NIHR CLAHRC West Midlands News Blog. 18 August 2017.
  2. Sandin S, Lichtenstein P, Kuja-Halkola R, Hultman C, Larsson H, Reichenberg A. The Heritability of Autism Spectrum Disorder. JAMA. 2017; 318(12): 1182-4.

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