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Studying phenotypic and genetic characteristics of age at onset (AAO) and polarity at onset (PAO) in bipolar disorder can provide new insights into disease pathology and facilitate the development of screening tools.
To examine the genetic architecture of AAO and PAO and their association with bipolar disorder disease characteristics.
Genome-wide association studies (GWASs) and polygenic score (PGS) analyses of AAO (n = 12 977) and PAO (n = 6773) were conducted in patients with bipolar disorder from 34 cohorts and a replication sample (n = 2237). The association of onset with disease characteristics was investigated in two of these cohorts.
Earlier AAO was associated with a higher probability of psychotic symptoms, suicidality, lower educational attainment, not living together and fewer episodes. Depressive onset correlated with suicidality and manic onset correlated with delusions and manic episodes. Systematic differences in AAO between cohorts and continents of origin were observed. This was also reflected in single-nucleotide variant-based heritability estimates, with higher heritabilities for stricter onset definitions. Increased PGS for autism spectrum disorder (β = −0.34 years, s.e. = 0.08), major depression (β = −0.34 years, s.e. = 0.08), schizophrenia (β = −0.39 years, s.e. = 0.08), and educational attainment (β = −0.31 years, s.e. = 0.08) were associated with an earlier AAO. The AAO GWAS identified one significant locus, but this finding did not replicate. Neither GWAS nor PGS analyses yielded significant associations with PAO.
AAO and PAO are associated with indicators of bipolar disorder severity. Individuals with an earlier onset show an increased polygenic liability for a broad spectrum of psychiatric traits. Systematic differences in AAO across cohorts, continents and phenotype definitions introduce significant heterogeneity, affecting analyses.
Disturbed sleep and activity are prominent features of bipolar disorder type I (BP-I). However, the relationship of sleep and activity characteristics to brain structure and behavior in euthymic BP-I patients and their non-BP-I relatives is unknown. Additionally, underlying genetic relationships between these traits have not been investigated.
Relationships between sleep and activity phenotypes, assessed using actigraphy, with structural neuroimaging (brain) and cognitive and temperament (behavior) phenotypes were investigated in 558 euthymic individuals from multi-generational pedigrees including at least one member with BP-I. Genetic correlations between actigraphy-brain and actigraphy-behavior associations were assessed, and bivariate linkage analysis was conducted for trait pairs with evidence of shared genetic influences.
More physical activity and longer awake time were significantly associated with increased brain volumes and cortical thickness, better performance on neurocognitive measures of long-term memory and executive function, and less extreme scores on measures of temperament (impulsivity, cyclothymia). These associations did not differ between BP-I patients and their non-BP-I relatives. For nine activity-brain or activity-behavior pairs there was evidence for shared genetic influence (genetic correlations); of these pairs, a suggestive bivariate quantitative trait locus on chromosome 7 for wake duration and verbal working memory was identified.
Our findings indicate that increased physical activity and more adequate sleep are associated with increased brain size, better cognitive function and more stable temperament in BP-I patients and their non-BP-I relatives. Additionally, we found evidence for pleiotropy of several actigraphy-behavior and actigraphy-brain phenotypes, suggesting a shared genetic basis for these traits.