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Schizotypy represents an index of psychosis-proneness in the general population, often associated with childhood trauma exposure. Both schizotypy and childhood trauma are linked to structural brain alterations, and it is possible that trauma exposure moderates the extent of brain morphological differences associated with schizotypy.
We addressed this question using data from a total of 1182 healthy adults (age range: 18–65 years old, 647 females/535 males), pooled from nine sites worldwide, contributing to the Enhancing NeuroImaging Genetics through Meta-Analysis (ENIGMA) Schizotypy working group. All participants completed both the Schizotypal Personality Questionnaire Brief version (SPQ-B), and the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ), and underwent a 3D T1-weighted brain MRI scan from which regional indices of subcortical gray matter volume and cortical thickness were determined.
A series of multiple linear regressions revealed that differences in cortical thickness in four regions-of-interest were significantly associated with interactions between schizotypy and trauma; subsequent moderation analyses indicated that increasing levels of schizotypy were associated with thicker left caudal anterior cingulate gyrus, right middle temporal gyrus and insula, and thinner left caudal middle frontal gyrus, in people exposed to higher (but not low or average) levels of childhood trauma. This was found in the context of morphological changes directly associated with increasing levels of schizotypy or increasing levels of childhood trauma exposure.
These results suggest that alterations in brain regions critical for higher cognitive and integrative processes that are associated with schizotypy may be enhanced in individuals exposed to high levels of trauma.
Obesity is highly prevalent and disabling, especially in individuals with severe mental illness including bipolar disorders (BD). The brain is a target organ for both obesity and BD. Yet, we do not understand how cortical brain alterations in BD and obesity interact.
We obtained body mass index (BMI) and MRI-derived regional cortical thickness, surface area from 1231 BD and 1601 control individuals from 13 countries within the ENIGMA-BD Working Group. We jointly modeled the statistical effects of BD and BMI on brain structure using mixed effects and tested for interaction and mediation. We also investigated the impact of medications on the BMI-related associations.
BMI and BD additively impacted the structure of many of the same brain regions. Both BMI and BD were negatively associated with cortical thickness, but not surface area. In most regions the number of jointly used psychiatric medication classes remained associated with lower cortical thickness when controlling for BMI. In a single region, fusiform gyrus, about a third of the negative association between number of jointly used psychiatric medications and cortical thickness was mediated by association between the number of medications and higher BMI.
We confirmed consistent associations between higher BMI and lower cortical thickness, but not surface area, across the cerebral mantle, in regions which were also associated with BD. Higher BMI in people with BD indicated more pronounced brain alterations. BMI is important for understanding the neuroanatomical changes in BD and the effects of psychiatric medications on the brain.
Cognitive dysfunction and brain structural connectivity alterations have been observed in major depressive disorder (MDD). However, little is known about their interrelation. The present study follows a network approach to evaluate alterations in cognition-related brain structural networks.
Cognitive performance of n = 805 healthy and n = 679 acutely depressed or remitted individuals was assessed using 14 cognitive tests aggregated into cognitive factors. The structural connectome was reconstructed from structural and diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging. Associations between global connectivity strength and cognitive factors were established using linear regressions. Network-based statistics were applied to identify subnetworks of connections underlying these global-level associations. In exploratory analyses, effects of depression were assessed by evaluating remission status-related group differences in subnetwork-specific connectivity. Partial correlations were employed to directly test the complete triad of cognitive factors, depressive symptom severity, and subnetwork-specific connectivity strength.
All cognitive factors were associated with global connectivity strength. For each cognitive factor, network-based statistics identified a subnetwork of connections, revealing, for example, a subnetwork positively associated with processing speed. Within that subnetwork, acutely depressed patients showed significantly reduced connectivity strength compared to healthy controls. Moreover, connectivity strength in that subnetwork was associated to current depressive symptom severity independent of the previous disease course.
Our study is the first to identify cognition-related structural brain networks in MDD patients, thereby revealing associations between cognitive deficits, depressive symptoms, and reduced structural connectivity. This supports the hypothesis that structural connectome alterations may mediate the association of cognitive deficits and depression severity.
Major depressive disorder (MDD) has been associated with alterations in brain white matter (WM) microstructure. However, diffusion tensor imaging studies in biological relatives have presented contradicting results on WM alterations and their potential as biomarkers for vulnerability or resilience. To shed more light on associations between WM microstructure and resilience to familial risk, analyses including both healthy and depressed relatives of MDD patients are needed.
In a 2 (MDD v. healthy controls, HC) × 2 (familial risk yes v. no) design, we investigated fractional anisotropy (FA) via tract-based spatial statistics in a large well-characterised adult sample (N = 528), with additional controls for childhood maltreatment, a potentially confounding proxy for environmental risk.
Analyses revealed a significant main effect of diagnosis on FA in the forceps minor and the left superior longitudinal fasciculus (ptfce−FWE = 0.009). Furthermore, a significant interaction of diagnosis with familial risk emerged (ptfce−FWE = 0.036) Post-hoc pairwise comparisons showed significantly higher FA, mainly in the forceps minor and right inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus, in HC with as compared to HC without familial risk (ptfce−FWE < 0.001), whereas familial risk played no role in MDD patients (ptfce−FWE = 0.797). Adding childhood maltreatment as a covariate, the interaction effect remained stable.
We found widespread increased FA in HC with familial risk for MDD as compared to a HC low-risk sample. The significant effect of risk on FA was present only in HC, but not in the MDD sample. These alterations might reflect compensatory neural mechanisms in healthy adults at risk for MDD potentially associated with resilience.
Patients with bipolar disorder (BD) show reduced fractional anisotropy (FA) compared to patients with major depressive disorder (MDD). Little is known about whether these differences are mood state-independent or influenced by acute symptom severity. Therefore, the aim of this study was (1) to replicate abnormalities in white matter microstructure in BD v. MDD and (2) to investigate whether these vary across depressed, euthymic, and manic mood.
In this cross-sectional diffusion tensor imaging study, n = 136 patients with BD were compared to age- and sex-matched MDD patients and healthy controls (HC) (n = 136 each). Differences in FA were investigated using tract-based spatial statistics. Using interaction models, the influence of acute symptom severity and mood state on the differences between patient groups were tested.
Analyses revealed a main effect of diagnosis on FA across all three groups (ptfce-FWE = 0.003). BD patients showed reduced FA compared to both MDD (ptfce-FWE = 0.005) and HC (ptfce-FWE < 0.001) in large bilateral clusters. These consisted of several white matter tracts previously described in the literature, including commissural, association, and projection tracts. There were no significant interaction effects between diagnosis and symptom severity or mood state (all ptfce-FWE > 0.704).
Results indicated that the difference between BD and MDD was independent of depressive and manic symptom severity and mood state. Disruptions in white matter microstructure in BD might be a trait effect of the disorder. The potential of FA values to be used as a biomarker to differentiate BD from MDD should be further addressed in future studies using longitudinal designs.
Childhood maltreatment (CM) represents a potent risk factor for major depressive disorder (MDD), including poorer treatment response. Altered resting-state connectivity in the fronto-limbic system has been reported in maltreated individuals. However, previous results in smaller samples differ largely regarding localization and direction of effects.
We included healthy and depressed samples [n = 624 participants with MDD; n = 701 healthy control (HC) participants] that underwent resting-state functional MRI measurements and provided retrospective self-reports of maltreatment using the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire. A-priori defined regions of interest [ROI; amygdala, hippocampus, anterior cingulate cortex (ACC)] were used to calculate seed-to-voxel connectivities.
No significant associations between maltreatment and resting-state connectivity of any ROI were found across MDD and HC participants and no interaction effect with diagnosis became significant. Investigating MDD patients only yielded maltreatment-associated increased connectivity between the amygdala and dorsolateral frontal areas [pFDR < 0.001; η2partial = 0.050; 95%-CI (0.023–0.085)]. This effect was robust across various sensitivity analyses and was associated with concurrent and previous symptom severity. Particularly strong amygdala-frontal associations with maltreatment were observed in acutely depressed individuals [n = 264; pFDR < 0.001; η2partial = 0.091; 95%-CI (0.038–0.166)). Weaker evidence – not surviving correction for multiple ROI analyses – was found for altered supracallosal ACC connectivity in HC individuals associated with maltreatment.
The majority of previous resting-state connectivity correlates of CM could not be replicated in this large-scale study. The strongest evidence was found for clinically relevant maltreatment associations with altered adult amygdala-dorsolateral frontal connectivity in depression. Future studies should explore the relevance of this pathway for a maltreated subgroup of MDD patients.
Two prominent risk factors for major depressive disorder (MDD) are childhood maltreatment (CM) and familial risk for MDD. Despite having these risk factors, there are individuals who maintain mental health, i.e. are resilient, whereas others develop MDD. It is unclear which brain morphological alterations are associated with this kind of resilience. Interaction analyses of risk and diagnosis status are needed that can account for complex adaptation processes, to identify neural correlates of resilience.
We analyzed brain structural data (3T magnetic resonance imaging) by means of voxel-based morphometry (CAT12 toolbox), using a 2 × 2 design, comparing four groups (N = 804) that differed in diagnosis (healthy v. MDD) and risk profiles (low-risk, i.e. absence of CM and familial risk v. high-risk, i.e. presence of both CM and familial risk). Using regions of interest (ROIs) from the literature, we conducted an interaction analysis of risk and diagnosis status.
Volume in the left middle frontal gyrus (MFG), part of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), was significantly higher in healthy high-risk individuals. There were no significant results for the bilateral superior frontal gyri, frontal poles, pars orbitalis of the inferior frontal gyri, and the right MFG.
The healthy high-risk group had significantly higher volumes in the left DLPFC compared to all other groups. The DLPFC is implicated in cognitive and emotional processes, and higher volume in this area might aid high-risk individuals in adaptive coping in order to maintain mental health. This increased volume might therefore constitute a neural correlate of resilience to MDD in high risk.
MRI-derived cortical folding measures are an indicator of largely genetically driven early developmental processes. However, the effects of genetic risk for major mental disorders on early brain development are not well understood.
We extracted cortical complexity values from structural MRI data of 580 healthy participants using the CAT12 toolbox. Polygenic risk scores (PRS) for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression, and cross-disorder (incorporating cumulative genetic risk for depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, autism spectrum disorder, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) were computed and used in separate general linear models with cortical complexity as the regressand. In brain regions that showed a significant association between polygenic risk for mental disorders and cortical complexity, volume of interest (VOI)/region of interest (ROI) analyses were conducted to investigate additional changes in their volume and cortical thickness.
The PRS for depression was associated with cortical complexity in the right orbitofrontal cortex (right hemisphere: p = 0.006). A subsequent VOI/ROI analysis showed no association between polygenic risk for depression and either grey matter volume or cortical thickness. We found no associations between cortical complexity and polygenic risk for either schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or psychiatric cross-disorder when correcting for multiple testing.
Changes in cortical complexity associated with polygenic risk for depression might facilitate well-established volume changes in orbitofrontal cortices in depression. Despite the absence of psychopathology, changed cortical complexity that parallels polygenic risk for depression might also change reward systems, which are also structurally affected in patients with depressive syndrome.
Previous case–control studies of autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) have identified altered brain structure such as altered frontal and temporal cortex volumes, or decreased fractional anisotropy (FA) within the inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus in patients. It remains unclear whether subclinical autistic-like traits might also be related to variation in these brain structures.
In this study, we analyzed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data of 250 psychiatrically healthy subjects phenotyped for subclinical autistic-like traits using the Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ). For data analysis, we used voxel-based morphometry of T1-MRIs (Computational Anatomy Toolbox) and tract-based spatial statistics for diffusion tensor imaging data.
AQ attention switching subscale correlated negatively with FA values in the bilateral uncinate fasciculus as well as the bilateral inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus. Higher AQ attention switching subscale scores were associated with increased mean diffusivity and radial diffusivity values in the uncinate fasciculus, while axial diffusivity values within this tract show a negative correlation. AQ attention to detail subscale correlated positively with gray matter volume in the right pre- and postcentral gyrus.
We demonstrate that individuals with higher levels of autism-spectrum-like features show decreased white matter integrity in tracts associated with higher-level visual processing and increased cortical volume in areas linked to movement sequencing and working memory. Our results resemble regional brain structure alterations found in individuals with ASD. This offers opportunities to further understand the etiology and pathogenesis of the disorder and shows a subclinical continuum perspective.
Eighty percent of all patients suffering from major depressive disorder (MDD) relapse at least once in their lifetime. Thus, understanding the neurobiological underpinnings of the course of MDD is of utmost importance. A detrimental course of illness in MDD was most consistently associated with superior longitudinal fasciculus (SLF) fiber integrity. As similar associations were, however, found between SLF fiber integrity and acute symptomatology, this study attempts to disentangle associations attributed to current depression from long-term course of illness.
A total of 531 patients suffering from acute (N = 250) or remitted (N = 281) MDD from the FOR2107-cohort were analyzed in this cross-sectional study using tract-based spatial statistics for diffusion tensor imaging. First, the effects of disease state (acute v. remitted), current symptom severity (BDI-score) and course of illness (number of hospitalizations) on fractional anisotropy (FA), mean diffusivity (MD), radial diffusivity (RD), and axial diffusivity were analyzed separately. Second, disease state and BDI-scores were analyzed in conjunction with the number of hospitalizations to disentangle their effects.
Disease state (pFWE < 0.042) and number of hospitalizations (pFWE< 0.032) were associated with decreased FA and increased MD and RD in the bilateral SLF. A trend was found for the BDI-score (pFWE > 0.067). When analyzed simultaneously only the effect of course of illness remained significant (pFWE < 0.040) mapping to the right SLF.
Decreased FA and increased MD and RD values in the SLF are associated with more hospitalizations when controlling for current psychopathology. SLF fiber integrity could reflect cumulative illness burden at a neurobiological level and should be targeted in future longitudinal analyses.
Schizotypy is a putative risk phenotype for psychosis liability, but the overlap of its genetic architecture with schizophrenia is poorly understood.
We tested the hypothesis that dimensions of schizotypy (assessed with the SPQ-B) are associated with a polygenic risk score (PRS) for schizophrenia in a sample of 623 psychiatrically healthy, non-clinical subjects from the FOR2107 multi-centre study and a second sample of 1133 blood donors.
We did not find correlations of schizophrenia PRS with either overall SPQ or specific dimension scores, nor with adjusted schizotypy scores derived from the SPQ (addressing inter-scale variance). Also, PRS for affective disorders (bipolar disorder and major depression) were not significantly associated with schizotypy.
This important negative finding demonstrates that despite the hypothesised continuum of schizotypy and schizophrenia, schizotypy might share less genetic risk with schizophrenia than previously assumed (and possibly less compared to psychotic-like experiences).
Subclinical psychotic-like experiences (PLE), resembling key symptoms of psychotic disorders, are common throughout the general population and possibly associated with psychosis risk. There is evidence that such symptoms are also associated with structural brain changes.
In 672 healthy individuals, we assessed PLE and associated distress with the symptom-checklist-90R (SCL-90R) scales ‘schizotypal signs’ (STS) and ‘schizophrenia nuclear symptoms’ (SNS) and analysed associations with voxel- and surfaced-based brain structural parameters derived from structural magnetic resonance imaging at 3 T with CAT12.
For SNS, we found a positive correlation with the volume in the left superior parietal lobule and the precuneus, and a negative correlation with the volume in the right inferior temporal gyrus [p < 0.05 cluster-level Family Wise Error (FWE-corrected]. For STS, we found a negative correlation with the volume of the left and right precentral gyrus (p < 0.05 cluster-level FWE-corrected). Surface-based analyses did not detect any significant clusters with the chosen statistical threshold of p < 0.05. However, in exploratory analyses (p < 0.001, uncorrected), we found a positive correlation of SNS with gyrification in the left insula and rostral middle frontal gyrus and of STS with the left precuneus and insula, as well as a negative correlation of STS with gyrification in the left temporal pole.
Our results show that brain structures in areas implicated in schizophrenia are also related to PLE and its associated distress in healthy individuals. This pattern supports a dimensional model of the neural correlates of symptoms of the psychotic spectrum.
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) presents with symptoms across different domains, whose neurobiology is poorly understood.
We applied voxel-based morphometry on high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging scans of 19 female BPD patients and 50 matched female controls.
Group comparison showed bilateral orbitofrontal gray matter loss in patients, but no significant changes in the hippocampus. Voxel-wise correlation of gray matter with symptom severity scores from the Borderline Symptom List (BSL-95) showed overall negative correlation in bilateral prefrontal, right inferior temporal/fusiform and occipital cortices, and left thalamus. Significant (negative) correlations with BSL-95 subscores within the patient cohort linked autoaggression to left lateral prefrontal and insular cortices, right inferior temporal/temporal pole, and right orbital cortex; dysthymia/dysphoria to right orbitofrontal cortex; self-perception to left postcentral, bilateral inferior/middle temporal, right orbitofrontal, and occipital cortices. Schema therapy-based Young Schema Questionnaire (YSQ-S2) scores of early maladaptive schemas on emotional deprivation were linked to left medial temporal lobe gray matter reductions.
Our results confirm orbitofrontal structural deficits in BPD, while providing a framework and preliminary findings on identifying structural correlates of symptom dimensions in BPD, especially with dorsolateral and orbitofrontal cortices.
Positive symptoms are a useful predictor of aggression in schizophrenia. Although a similar pattern of abnormal brain structures related to both positive symptoms and aggression has been reported, this observation has not yet been confirmed in a single sample.
To study the association between positive symptoms and aggression in schizophrenia on a neurobiological level, a prospective meta-analytic approach was employed to analyze harmonized structural neuroimaging data from 10 research centers worldwide. We analyzed brain MRI scans from 902 individuals with a primary diagnosis of schizophrenia and 952 healthy controls.
The result identified a widespread cortical thickness reduction in schizophrenia compared to their controls. Two separate meta-regression analyses revealed that a common pattern of reduced cortical gray matter thickness within the left lateral temporal lobe and right midcingulate cortex was significantly associated with both positive symptoms and aggression.
These findings suggested that positive symptoms such as formal thought disorder and auditory misperception, combined with cognitive impairments reflecting difficulties in deploying an adaptive control toward perceived threats, could escalate the likelihood of aggression in schizophrenia.
Schizotypy, a putative schizophrenia endophenotype, has been associated with brain-structural variations partly overlapping with those in psychotic disorders. Variations in precuneus structure have been repeatedly reported, whereas the involvement of fronto-striatal networks – as in schizophrenia – is less clear. While shared genetic architecture is thought to increase vulnerability to environmental insults, beneficial factors like general intelligence might buffer their effect.
To further investigate the role of fronto-striatal networks in schizotypy, we examined the relationship of voxel- and surface-based brain morphometry and a measure of schizotypal traits (Schizotypal Personality Questionnaire, with subscores Cognitive-Perceptual, Interpersonal, Disorganised) in 115 healthy participants [54 female, mean age (s.d.) = 27.57(8.02)]. We tested intelligence (MWT-B) as a potential moderator.
We found a positive association of SPQ Cognitive-Perceptual with putamen volume (p = 0.040, FWE peak level-corrected), moderated by intelligence: with increasing IQ, the correlation of SPQ Cognitive-Perceptual and striatal volume decreased (p = 0.022). SPQ Disorganised was positively correlated with precentral volume (p = 0.013, FWE peak level-corrected). In an exploratory analysis (p < 0.001, uncorrected), SPQ total score was positively associated with gyrification in the precuneus and postcentral gyrus, and SPQ Disorganised was negatively associated with gyrification in the inferior frontal gyrus.
Our findings support the role of fronto-striatal networks for schizotypal features in healthy individuals, and suggest that these are influenced by buffering factors like intelligence. We conclude that protective factors, like general cognitive capacity, might attenuate the psychosis risk associated with schizotypy. These results endorse the idea of a continuous nature of schizotypy, mirroring similar findings in schizophrenia.
Childhood maltreatment (CM) plays an important role in the development of major depressive disorder (MDD). The aim of this study was to examine whether CM severity and type are associated with MDD-related brain alterations, and how they interact with sex and age.
Within the ENIGMA-MDD network, severity and subtypes of CM using the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire were assessed and structural magnetic resonance imaging data from patients with MDD and healthy controls were analyzed in a mega-analysis comprising a total of 3872 participants aged between 13 and 89 years. Cortical thickness and surface area were extracted at each site using FreeSurfer.
CM severity was associated with reduced cortical thickness in the banks of the superior temporal sulcus and supramarginal gyrus as well as with reduced surface area of the middle temporal lobe. Participants reporting both childhood neglect and abuse had a lower cortical thickness in the inferior parietal lobe, middle temporal lobe, and precuneus compared to participants not exposed to CM. In males only, regardless of diagnosis, CM severity was associated with higher cortical thickness of the rostral anterior cingulate cortex. Finally, a significant interaction between CM and age in predicting thickness was seen across several prefrontal, temporal, and temporo-parietal regions.
Severity and type of CM may impact cortical thickness and surface area. Importantly, CM may influence age-dependent brain maturation, particularly in regions related to the default mode network, perception, and theory of mind.
Alterations of cortical thickness have been shown in imaging studies of
schizophrenia but it is unclear to what extent they are related to
disease phenotype (including symptom profile) or other aspects such as
genetic liability, disease onset and disease progression.
To test the hypothesis that cortical thinning would vary across different
subgroups of patients with chronic schizophrenia, delineated according to
their symptom profiles.
We compared high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging data of 87
patients with DSM-IV schizophrenia with 108 controls to detect changes in
cortical thickness across the entire brain (P<0.05,
false discovery rate-adjusted). The patient group was divided into three
subgroups, consisting of patients with predominantly negative,
disorganised or paranoid symptoms.
The negative symptoms subgroup showed the most extensive cortical
thinning, whereas thinning in the other subgroups was focused in
prefrontal and temporal cortical subregions.
Our findings support growing evidence of potential subtypes of
schizophrenia that have different brain structural deficit profiles.
We applied voxel-based morphometry to high-resolution magnetic resonance images of 99 participants with schizophrenia. Voxel-wise correlations with a score of auditory hallucination severity identified areas in the left and right superior temporal cortex (including Heschl's gyrus), left supramarginal/angular gyrus, left postcentral gyrus and left posterior cingulate cortex. This study extends previous region-of-interest studies demonstrating main effects of auditory hallucinations related to modality-specific superior temporal areas including primary and secondary auditory cortices.
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