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Two Peas in a Pod: Nottingham Malaysian Twin Registry

Dr Steve Stewart-Williams

University of Nottingham Malaysia, aims to study how genes and the environment work together by creating a registry of Malaysian twins through the Nottingham Malaysian Twin Registry.

The twin registry is a database containing information about twins who are interested in participating in research. Many twin registries have been created around the world, including Australia, Sweden, England, Finland, the United States, the Netherlands, Norway, and China.

Studies on twins have provided us with important insight on the nature over nurture argument. Identical twins, who share 100% of their genes, look strikingly similar and are invariably the same sex. Fraternal twins, on the other hand, can be the same or of the opposite sex and share only about 50% of their genes with each other. If a trait is more common among identical twins, this suggests that genetic factors make a significant contribution to the trait. By comparing their differences, researchers are able to pinpoint how much their shared genes or the environment affect a trait or disorder.

Today, twin studies continue to provide us with significant findings between the environment and our genes and how they work together. Studies involving twins and their family have resulted in important findings on obesity, cancer, diabetes and even reading abilities. Despite the wealth of findings uncovered through twin studies, there is a lack of research focusing on twins in Malaysia.

Nottingham Malaysian Twin Registry

To address this gap, the Nottingham Malaysian Twin Registry (NMTR) was established in March 2019 by Dr Steve Janssen and Dr Steve Stewart-Williams from the School of Psychology of the University of Nottingham Malaysia. This database is the second known twin registry in Malaysia. The first was the National Malaysian Twin Registry, which was established in 2008 by the University of Kuala Lumpur. Unfortunately, though, this database is no longer in use. The University’s registry is therefore the only one in Malaysia at present.

The main aim of the NMTR is to establish and maintain contact with adult identical and fraternal twins living in the Klang Valley. In the long run, the University aims to provide a resource for research projects that would require the participation of twins. Eventually, the goal of NMTR is to bring together twins from across the country to participate in both programmes and research.

Recruitment for the NMTR is currently ongoing with the goal of establishing contact with at least 200 Malaysian adult twins from various language, social and ethnic backgrounds.

To join the registry, twins are required to answer a -five-minute questionnaire about their family, education and work background. The twins registered under the NMTR will then be contacted by the University when an opportunity to collaborate arises.

Currently, the University is interested in looking at the influence of nature and nurture on different aspects of the twins’ ability to recall personal memories. As such, the University is inviting twins between 18 to 65 years old, for a research study where they will complete a series of memory tasks. This study involves monetary compensation to encourage participation.

The University is also hoping to conduct more studies in the future with twins. The future studies would not necessarily involve memory but could be about all kinds of topics including even topics unrelated to psychology, such as medical disorders and the like.

According to University of Nottingham Malaysia Associate Professor Dr Steve Stewart-Williams and principal investigator of NMTR research project: “Twin studies are one of the most important research methods in all of psychology. Up until now, though, most twin studies have been done in the West. That’s why we want to establish a twin registry in Malaysia: so we can broaden the research, and include people from a very different culture and region.”

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Posted on 21st May 2019

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