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Prior research demonstrated that attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is associated with binge-eating behavior, binge-eating disorder (BED), and bulimia nervosa (BN). The aim of this study was to investigate these associations in an adult twin population, and to determine the extent to which ADHD symptoms and binge-eating behavior share genetic and environmental factors.
We used self-reports of current ADHD symptoms and lifetime binge-eating behavior and associated characteristics from a sample of over 18 000 adult twins aged 20–46 years, from the population-based Swedish Twin Registry. Mixed-effects logistic regression was used to examine the association between ADHD and lifetime binge-eating behavior, BED, and BN. Structural equation modeling was used in 13 773 female twins to determine the relative contribution of genetic and environmental factors to the association between ADHD symptoms and binge-eating behavior in female adult twins.
ADHD symptoms were significantly associated with lifetime binge-eating behavior, BED, and BN. The heritability estimate for current ADHD symptoms was 0.42 [95% confidence interval (CI) 0.41–0.44], and for lifetime binge-eating behavior 0.65 (95% CI 0.54–0.74). The genetic correlation was estimated as 0.35 (95% CI 0.25–0.46) and the covariance between ADHD and binge-eating behavior was primarily explained by genetic factors (91%). Non-shared environmental factors explained the remaining part of the covariance.
The association between adult ADHD symptoms and binge-eating behavior in females is largely explained by shared genetic risk factors.
Advancing paternal age has been linked to psychiatric disorders. These associations might be caused by the increased number of de novo mutations transmitted to offspring of older men. It has also been suggested that the associations are confounded by a genetic liability for psychiatric disorders in parents. The aim of this study was to indirectly test the confounding hypotheses by examining if there is a genetic component to advancing paternal age and if men with a genetic liability for psychiatric disorders have children at older ages.
We examined the genetic component to advancing paternal age by utilizing the twin model in a cohort of male twins (N = 14 679). We also studied ages at childbirth in men with or without schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and/or autism spectrum disorder. Ages were examined in: (1) healthy men, (2) affected men, (3) healthy men with an affected sibling, (4) men with healthy spouses, (5) men with affected spouses, and (6) men with healthy spouses with an affected sibling.
The twin analyses showed that late fatherhood is under genetic influence (heritability = 0.33). However, affected men or men with affected spouses did not have children at older ages. The same was found for healthy individuals with affected siblings. Instead, these men were generally having children at younger ages.
Although there is a genetic component influencing late fatherhood, our data suggest that the associations are not explained by psychiatric disorders or a genetic liability for psychiatric disorders in the parent.
Childhood maltreatment (CM) has been associated with increased risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and adults. It is, however, unclear whether this association is causal or due to familial confounding.
Data from 18 168 adult twins, aged 20–46 years, were drawn from the population-based Swedish twin registry. Retrospective self-ratings of CM (emotional and physical neglect, physical and sexual abuse and witnessing family violence), and self-ratings for DSM-IV ADHD symptoms in adulthood were analysed. Possible familial confounding was investigated using a within twin-pair design based on monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins.
CM was significantly associated with increased levels of ADHD symptom scores in adults [regression coefficient: 0.40 standard deviations, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.37–0.43]. Within twin-pair analyses showed attenuated but significant estimates within DZ (0.29, 95% CI 0.21–0.36) and MZ (0.18, 95% CI 0.10–0.25) twin pairs. Similar results emerged for hyperactive/impulsive and inattentive ADHD symptom scores separately in association with CM. We conducted sensitivity analyses for early maltreatment, before age 7, and for abuse and neglect separately, and found similarly reduced estimates in DZ and MZ pairs. Re-traumatization after age 7 did not significantly influence results.
CM was significantly associated with increased ADHD symptoms in adults. Associations were partly due to familial confounding, but also consistent with a causal interpretation. Our findings support cognitive neuroscience studies investigating neural pathways through which exposure to CM may influence ADHD. Clinicians treating adults with ADHD should be aware of the association with maltreatment.
Alcohol dependence is associated with increased levels of impulsivity, but the genetic and environmental underpinnings of this overlap remain unclear. The purpose of the current study was to investigate the degree to which genetic and environmental factors contribute to the overlap between alcohol dependence and impulsivity.
Univariate and bivariate twin model fitting was conducted for alcohol dependence and impulsivity in a national sample of 16 819 twins born in Sweden from 1959 to 1985.
The heritability estimate for alcohol dependence was 44% [95% confidence interval (CI) 31–57%] for males and 62% (95% CI 52–72%) for females. For impulsivity, the heritability was 33% (95% CI 30–36%) in males and females. The bivariate twin analysis indicated a statistically significant genetic correlation between alcohol dependence and impulsivity of 0.40 (95% CI 0.23–0.58) in males and 0.20 (95% CI 0.07–0.33) in females. The phenotypic correlation between alcohol dependence and impulsivity was 0.20 and 0.17 for males and females, respectively, and the bivariate heritability was 80% (95% CI 47–117%) for males and 53% (95% CI 19–86%) for females. The remaining variance in all models was accounted for by non-shared environmental factors.
The association between alcohol dependence and impulsivity can be partially accounted for by shared genetic factors. The genetic correlation was greater in men compared with women, which may indicate different pathways to the development of alcohol dependence between sexes. The observed genetic overlap has clinical implications regarding treatment and prevention, and partially explains the substantial co-morbidity between alcohol dependence and psychiatric disorders characterized by impulsive behaviour.
Offspring of patients with schizophrenia exhibit poorer school performance compared with offspring of non-schizophrenic parents. We aimed to elucidate the mechanisms behind this association.
We linked longitudinal national population registers in Sweden and compared school performance among offspring of schizophrenic parents with offspring of non-schizophrenic parents (1 439 215 individuals with final grades from compulsory school 1988–2006). To investigate the mechanisms, we studied offspring of schizophrenic patients and controls within the same extended families. We investigated genetic effects by stratifying analyses of parent–child associations according to genetic relatedness (half-cousins, full cousins and half-siblings). Environmental effects were investigated by comparing school performance of offspring of schizophrenic fathers and of schizophrenic mothers, respectively, and by stratifying the analyses according to environmental relatedness while controlling genetic relatedness (paternal and maternal half-cousins, paternal and maternal half-siblings).
Offspring of parents with schizophrenia had poorer overall school performance than unrelated offspring of non-schizophrenic parents (−0.31 s.d.). Variability in genetic relatedness greatly moderated the strength of the within-family association (β=−0.23 within exposure-discordant half-cousins, β=−0.13 within exposure-discordant full cousins, β=0.04 within exposure-discordant half-siblings), while no evidence was found that the environment affected offspring school performance.
Genetic factors account for poorer school performance in children of parents with schizophrenia. This supports that cognitive deficits found in individuals with schizophrenia and their relatives might be genetically inherited. Early detection of prodromal signs and impaired functioning of offspring of patients with schizophrenia could lead to earlier and better tailored interventions.
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