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Cognitive impairment associated with lifetime major depressive disorder (MDD) is well-supported by meta-analytic studies, but population-based estimates remain scarce. Previous UK Biobank studies have only shown limited evidence of cognitive differences related to probable MDD. Using updated cognitive and clinical assessments in UK Biobank, this study investigated population-level differences in cognitive functioning associated with lifetime MDD.
Associations between lifetime MDD and cognition (performance on six tasks and general cognitive functioning [g-factor]) were investigated in UK Biobank (N-range 7,457–14,836, age 45–81 years, 52% female), adjusting for demographics, education, and lifestyle. Lifetime MDD classifications were based on the Composite International Diagnostic Interview. Within the lifetime MDD group, we additionally investigated relationships between cognition and (a) recurrence, (b) current symptoms, (c) severity of psychosocial impairment (while symptomatic), and (d) concurrent psychotropic medication use.
Lifetime MDD was robustly associated with a lower g-factor (β = −0.10, PFDR = 4.7 × 10−5), with impairments in attention, processing speed, and executive functioning (β ≥ 0.06). Clinical characteristics revealed differential profiles of cognitive impairment among case individuals; those who reported severe psychosocial impairment and use of psychotropic medication performed worse on cognitive tests. Severe psychosocial impairment and reasoning showed the strongest association (β = −0.18, PFDR = 7.5 × 10−5).
Findings describe small but robust associations between lifetime MDD and lower cognitive performance within a population-based sample. Overall effects were of modest effect size, suggesting limited clinical relevance. However, deficits within specific cognitive domains were more pronounced in relation to clinical characteristics, particularly severe psychosocial impairment.
Studies suggest that alcohol consumption and alcohol use disorders have distinct genetic backgrounds.
We examined whether polygenic risk scores (PRS) for consumption and problem subscales of the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT-C, AUDIT-P) in the UK Biobank (UKB; N = 121 630) correlate with alcohol outcomes in four independent samples: an ascertained cohort, the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA; N = 6850), and population-based cohorts: Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC; N = 5911), Generation Scotland (GS; N = 17 461), and an independent subset of UKB (N = 245 947). Regression models and survival analyses tested whether the PRS were associated with the alcohol-related outcomes.
In COGA, AUDIT-P PRS was associated with alcohol dependence, AUD symptom count, maximum drinks (R2 = 0.47–0.68%, p = 2.0 × 10−8–1.0 × 10−10), and increased likelihood of onset of alcohol dependence (hazard ratio = 1.15, p = 4.7 × 10−8); AUDIT-C PRS was not an independent predictor of any phenotype. In ALSPAC, the AUDIT-C PRS was associated with alcohol dependence (R2 = 0.96%, p = 4.8 × 10−6). In GS, AUDIT-C PRS was a better predictor of weekly alcohol use (R2 = 0.27%, p = 5.5 × 10−11), while AUDIT-P PRS was more associated with problem drinking (R2 = 0.40%, p = 9.0 × 10−7). Lastly, AUDIT-P PRS was associated with ICD-based alcohol-related disorders in the UKB subset (R2 = 0.18%, p < 2.0 × 10−16).
AUDIT-P PRS was associated with a range of alcohol-related phenotypes across population-based and ascertained cohorts, while AUDIT-C PRS showed less utility in the ascertained cohort. We show that AUDIT-P is genetically correlated with both use and misuse and demonstrate the influence of ascertainment schemes on PRS analyses.
Major depressive disorder and neuroticism (Neu) share a large genetic basis. We sought to determine whether this shared basis could be decomposed to identify genetic factors that are specific to depression.
We analysed summary statistics from genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of depression (from the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium, 23andMe and UK Biobank) and compared them with GWAS of Neu (from UK Biobank). First, we used a pairwise GWAS analysis to classify variants as associated with only depression, with only Neu or with both. Second, we estimated partial genetic correlations to test whether the depression's genetic link with other phenotypes was explained by shared overlap with Neu.
We found evidence that most genomic regions (25/37) associated with depression are likely to be shared with Neu. The overlapping common genetic variance of depression and Neu was genetically correlated primarily with psychiatric disorders. We found that the genetic contributions to depression, that were not shared with Neu, were positively correlated with metabolic phenotypes and cardiovascular disease, and negatively correlated with the personality trait conscientiousness. After removing shared genetic overlap with Neu, depression still had a specific association with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, coronary artery disease and age of first birth. Independent of depression, Neu had specific genetic correlates in ulcerative colitis, pubertal growth, anorexia and education.
Our findings demonstrate that, while genetic risk factors for depression are largely shared with Neu, there are also non-Neu-related features of depression that may be useful for further patient or phenotypic stratification.
Substantial clinical heterogeneity of major depressive disorder (MDD) suggests it may group together individuals with diverse aetiologies. Identifying distinct subtypes should lead to more effective diagnosis and treatment, while providing more useful targets for further research. Genetic and clinical overlap between MDD and schizophrenia (SCZ) suggests an MDD subtype may share underlying mechanisms with SCZ.
The present study investigated whether a neurobiologically distinct subtype of MDD could be identified by SCZ polygenic risk score (PRS). We explored interactive effects between SCZ PRS and MDD case/control status on a range of cortical, subcortical and white matter metrics among 2370 male and 2574 female UK Biobank participants.
There was a significant SCZ PRS by MDD interaction for rostral anterior cingulate cortex (RACC) thickness (β = 0.191, q = 0.043). This was driven by a positive association between SCZ PRS and RACC thickness among MDD cases (β = 0.098, p = 0.026), compared to a negative association among controls (β = −0.087, p = 0.002). MDD cases with low SCZ PRS showed thinner RACC, although the opposite difference for high-SCZ-PRS cases was not significant. There were nominal interactions for other brain metrics, but none remained significant after correcting for multiple comparisons.
Our significant results indicate that MDD case-control differences in RACC thickness vary as a function of SCZ PRS. Although this was not the case for most other brain measures assessed, our specific findings still provide some further evidence that MDD in the presence of high genetic risk for SCZ is subtly neurobiologically distinct from MDD in general.
Despite established clinical associations among major depression (MD), alcohol dependence (AD), and alcohol consumption (AC), the nature of the causal relationship between them is not completely understood. We leveraged genome-wide data from the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (PGC) and UK Biobank to test for the presence of shared genetic mechanisms and causal relationships among MD, AD, and AC.
Linkage disequilibrium score regression and Mendelian randomization (MR) were performed using genome-wide data from the PGC (MD: 135 458 cases and 344 901 controls; AD: 10 206 cases and 28 480 controls) and UK Biobank (AC-frequency: 438 308 individuals; AC-quantity: 307 098 individuals).
Positive genetic correlation was observed between MD and AD (rgMD−AD = + 0.47, P = 6.6 × 10−10). AC-quantity showed positive genetic correlation with both AD (rgAD−AC quantity = + 0.75, P = 1.8 × 10−14) and MD (rgMD−AC quantity = + 0.14, P = 2.9 × 10−7), while there was negative correlation of AC-frequency with MD (rgMD−AC frequency = −0.17, P = 1.5 × 10−10) and a non-significant result with AD. MR analyses confirmed the presence of pleiotropy among these four traits. However, the MD-AD results reflect a mediated-pleiotropy mechanism (i.e. causal relationship) with an effect of MD on AD (beta = 0.28, P = 1.29 × 10−6). There was no evidence for reverse causation.
This study supports a causal role for genetic liability of MD on AD based on genetic datasets including thousands of individuals. Understanding mechanisms underlying MD-AD comorbidity addresses important public health concerns and has the potential to facilitate prevention and intervention efforts.
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