Link Between Genes, Face Variation

In a new final technical report recently made available by the NIJ, author Mark Shriver describes how genes can affect facial features.

From the abstract of Identifying and Communicating Genetic Determinants of Facial Features: Practical Considerations in Forensic Molecular Photofitting:

Human facial diversity is substantial, complex, and largely scientifically unexplained. The author measured face shape in population samples with mixed West African and European ancestry from the United States, Brazil, and Cape Verde. Using bootstrapped response-based imputation modeling (BRIM), the author uncovered the relationships between facial variation and the effects of sex, genomic ancestry, and a set of craniofacial candidate genes that show signatures of accelerated evolution.

The facial effects of these variables were summarized as response-based imputed predictor (RIP) variables, which were validated using self-reported information. Results on a set of 20 genes showing significant effects on facial features provide support for this approach as a novel means to identify genes affecting normal-range facial features and for approximating the appearance of a face from genetic markers.

These tools can aid psychological research on the role of face shape in perceiving, categorizing, and remembering faces and in studying other specific phenomena. The author’s methods also allow investigations of how facial features are associated with variables such as age, body size, drug use history, and possibly even sexual orientation, attractiveness, dominance, and temperament. In addition, they allow the estimation of ancestry from 3D images rather than from DNA tests.

Most directly, the author’s methods provide a means of identifying the genes that affect facial shape and for modeling the effects of these genes to generate a predicted face. Although much more work is needed before it is known how many genes are required to estimate the shape of a face and more populations need to be studied before the results can be generalized, this report results provides both the impetus and analytical framework for those future studies.

You can download the full PDF report here.

Source: Office of Justice Programs

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