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Association of polygenic risk for major psychiatric illness with subcortical volumes and white matter integrity in UK Biobank

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Original languageEnglish
Article number42140
JournalScientific Reports
Early online date10 Feb 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 Feb 2017


Major depressive disorder (MDD), schizophrenia (SCZ) and bipolar disorder (BP) are common, disabling and heritable psychiatric diseases with a complex overlapping polygenic architecture. Individuals with these disorders, as well as their unaffected relatives, show widespread structural differences in corticostriatal and limbic networks. Structural variation in many of these brain regions is also heritable and polygenic but whether their genetic architecture overlaps with major psychiatric disorders is unknown. We sought to address this issue by examining the impact of polygenic risk of MDD, SCZ, and BP on subcortical brain volumes and white matter (WM) microstructure in a large single sample of neuroimaging data; the UK Biobank Imaging study. The first release of UK Biobank imaging data compromised participants with overlapping genetic data and subcortical volumes (N = 978) and WM measures (N = 816). The calculation of polygenic risk scores was based on genome-wide association study (GWAS) results generated by the Psychiatric GWAS Consortium (PGC). Our findings however, indicated no statistically significant associations between either subcortical volumes or WM microstructure, and polygenic risk for MDD, SCZ or BP. In the current study, we found little or no evidence for genetic overlap between major psychiatric disorders and structural brain measures. These findings suggest that subcortical brain volumes and WM microstructure may not be closely linked to the genetic mechanisms of major psychiatric disorders.

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