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There is evidence that autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) co-occur with bipolar disorder (BD) relatively frequently. Individuals with BD often report symptoms of mania and hypomania during adolescence, prior to the age of onset for BD. It is unknown whether these symptoms are associated with ASDs. We examined whether diagnoses of ASDs and autistic traits were associated with hypomania in a large, population-based Swedish twin sample.
Parental structured interviews assessed autistic traits, and were used to assign screening diagnoses of ASDs, when twins were aged 9 or 12 (N = 13 533 pairs). Parents then completed questionnaires assessing hypomania when the twins were aged 15 and 18 (N = 3852 pairs at age 15, and 3013 pairs at age 18). After investigating the phenotypic associations between these measures, we used the classical twin design to test whether genetic and environmental influences on autistic traits influence variation in adolescent hypomania.
Autistic traits and ASD diagnoses in childhood were associated with elevated scores on the measures of adolescent hypomania. Twin analyses indicated that 6–9% of the variance in hypomania was explained by genetic influences that were shared with autistic traits in childhood. When repeating these analyses for specific autistic trait domains, we found a stronger association between social interaction difficulties and hypomania than for other autistic trait domains.
These results indicate a genetic link between autistic traits and hypomania in adolescence. This adds to the growing evidence base of genetic factors associated with ASDs showing links with psychiatric outcomes across childhood and into adulthood.
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common and highly heritable neurodevelopmental disorder (NDD). In this narrative review, we summarize recent advances in quantitative and molecular genetic research from the past 5–10 years. Combined with large-scale international collaboration, these advances have resulted in fast-paced progress in understanding the etiology of ADHD and how genetic risk factors map on to clinical heterogeneity. Studies are converging on a number of key insights. First, ADHD is a highly polygenic NDD with a complex genetic architecture encompassing risk variants across the spectrum of allelic frequencies, which are implicated in neurobiological processes. Second, genetic studies strongly suggest that ADHD diagnosis shares a large proportion of genetic risks with continuously distributed traits of ADHD in the population, with shared genetic risks also seen across development and sex. Third, ADHD genetic risks are shared with those implicated in many other neurodevelopmental, psychiatric and somatic phenotypes. As sample sizes and the diversity of genetic studies continue to increase through international collaborative efforts, we anticipate further success with gene discovery, characterization of how the ADHD phenotype relates to other human traits and growing potential to use genomic risk factors for understanding clinical trajectories and for precision medicine approaches.
Several neuroimaging studies have reported associations between brain white matter microstructure and chronotype. However, it is unclear whether those phenotypic relationships are causal or underlined by genetic factors. In the present study, we use genetic data to examine the genetic overlap and infer causal relationships between chronotype and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) measures. We identify 29 significant pairwise genetic correlations, of which 13 also show evidence for a causal association. Genetic correlations were identified between chronotype and brain-wide mean, axial and radial diffusivities. When exploring individual tracts, 10 genetic correlations were observed with mean diffusivity, 10 with axial diffusivity, 4 with radial diffusivity and 2 with mode of anisotropy. We found evidence for a possible causal association of eveningness with white matter microstructure measures in individual tracts including the posterior limb and the retrolenticular part of the internal capsule; the genu and splenium of the corpus callosum and the posterior, superior and anterior regions of the corona radiata. Our findings contribute to the understanding of how genes influence circadian preference and brain white matter and provide a new avenue for investigating the role of chronotype in health and disease.
Autism spectrum disorder (autism) is a heterogeneous group of neurodevelopmental conditions characterized by early childhood-onset impairments in communication and social interaction alongside restricted and repetitive behaviors and interests. This review summarizes recent developments in human genetics research in autism, complemented by epigenetic and transcriptomic findings. The clinical heterogeneity of autism is mirrored by a complex genetic architecture involving several types of common and rare variants, ranging from point mutations to large copy number variants, and either inherited or spontaneous (de novo). More than 100 risk genes have been implicated by rare, often de novo, potentially damaging mutations in highly constrained genes. These account for substantial individual risk but a small proportion of the population risk. In contrast, most of the genetic risk is attributable to common inherited variants acting en masse, each individually with small effects. Studies have identified a handful of robustly associated common variants. Different risk genes converge on the same mechanisms, such as gene regulation and synaptic connectivity. These mechanisms are also implicated by genes that are epigenetically and transcriptionally dysregulated in autism. Major challenges to understanding the biological mechanisms include substantial phenotypic heterogeneity, large locus heterogeneity, variable penetrance, and widespread pleiotropy. Considerable increases in sample sizes are needed to better understand the hundreds or thousands of common and rare genetic variants involved. Future research should integrate common and rare variant research, multi-omics data including genomics, epigenomics, and transcriptomics, and refined phenotype assessment with multidimensional and longitudinal measures.
Tourette syndrome (TS) is a severe neuropsychiatric disorder characterized by recurrent, involuntary physical and verbal tics. With a prevalence as high as 1% in children, a deeper understanding of the etiology of the disorder and contributions to risk is critical. Here, we cover the current body of knowledge in scientific literature regarding the genetics of TS. We first review the history and diagnostic criteria for TS cases. We then cover the prevalence, and begin to address the etiology of the disorder. We highlight long-standing evidence for a genetic contribution to TS risk from epidemiology studies focused on twins, families, and population-scale data. Finally, we summarize current large-scale genetic studies of TS along specific classes of genetic variation, including common variation, rare copy number variation, and de novo variation that impact protein-coding sequence. Although these variants do not account for the entirety of TS genetic risk, current evidence is clear that each class of variation is a factor in the overall risk architecture across TS cases.
The schizophrenia polygenic risk score (SCZ-PRS) is an emerging tool in psychiatry.
We aimed to evaluate the utility of SCZ-PRS in a young, transdiagnostic, clinical cohort.
SCZ-PRSs were calculated for young people who presented to early-intervention youth mental health clinics, including 158 patients of European ancestry, 113 of whom had longitudinal outcome data. We examined associations between SCZ-PRS and diagnosis, clinical stage and functioning at initial assessment, and new-onset psychotic disorder, clinical stage transition and functional course over time in contact with services.
Compared with a control group, patients had elevated PRSs for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression, but not for any non-psychiatric phenotype (for example cardiovascular disease). Higher SCZ-PRSs were elevated in participants with psychotic, bipolar, depressive, anxiety and other disorders. At initial assessment, overall SCZ-PRSs were associated with psychotic disorder (odds ratio (OR) per s.d. increase in SCZ-PRS was 1.68, 95% CI 1.08–2.59, P = 0.020), but not assignment as clinical stage 2+ (i.e. discrete, persistent or recurrent disorder) (OR = 0.90, 95% CI 0.64–1.26, P = 0.53) or functioning (R = 0.03, P = 0.76). Longitudinally, overall SCZ-PRSs were not significantly associated with new-onset psychotic disorder (OR = 0.84, 95% CI 0.34–2.03, P = 0.69), clinical stage transition (OR = 1.02, 95% CI 0.70–1.48, P = 0.92) or persistent functional impairment (OR = 0.84, 95% CI 0.52–1.38, P = 0.50).
In this preliminary study, SCZ-PRSs were associated with psychotic disorder at initial assessment in a young, transdiagnostic, clinical cohort accessing early-intervention services. Larger clinical studies are needed to further evaluate the clinical utility of SCZ-PRSs, especially among individuals with high SCZ-PRS burden.
Jean Golding, born in England in 1939, is one of the United Kingdom’s National Health Service ‘Research Legends’. Trained in Human Genetics and Biometry, she is best known for having planned and directed the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), initiated with 14,500 pregnant women in the south of England. The aim was to determine the ways in which different aspects of the environment and genetics are associated with child health and development, including criminality. In a comparison with Brazilian children, conduct problems, hyperactivity, and violent crime were found to be more prevalent in Brazil, but the ALSPAC children had more nonviolent crimes. The associations between behavior problems during childhood and criminality were partly explained by perinatal health factors and childhood family environments in both countries.
Triple X syndrome (TXS) is caused by aneuploidy of the X chromosome and is associated with impaired social functioning in children; however, its effect on social functioning and emotion recognition in adults is poorly understood.
The aim of this study was to investigate social functioning and emotion recognition in adults with TXS.
This cross-sectional cohort study was designed to compare social functioning and emotion recognition between adults with TXS (n = 34) and an age-matched control group (n = 31). Social functioning was assessed with the Adult Behavior Checklist and Social Responsiveness Scale for Adults. Emotion recognition was assessed with the Emotion Recognition Task in the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery. Differences were analysed by Mann-Whitney U-test.
Compared with controls, women with TXS scored higher on the Adult Behavior Checklist, including the Withdrawn scale (P < 0.001, effect size 0.4) and Thought Problems scale (P < 0.001, effect size 0.4); and higher on the Social Responsiveness Scale for Adults, indicating impaired social functioning (P < 0.001, effect size 0.5). In addition, women with TXS performed worse on the Emotion Recognition Task, particularly with respect to recognising sadness (P < 0.005, effect size 0.4), fear (P < 0.01, effect size 0.4) and disgust (P < 0.02, effect size 0.3).
Our findings indicate that adults with TXS have a higher prevalence of impaired social functioning and emotion recognition. These results highlight the relevance of sex chromosome aneuploidy as a potential model for studying disorders characterised by social impairments such as autism spectrum disorder, particularly among women.
Enabled by advances in high throughput genomic sequencing and an unprecedented level of global data sharing, molecular genetic research is beginning to unlock the biological basis of eating disorders. This invited review provides an overview of genetic discoveries in eating disorders in the genome-wide era. To date, five genome-wide association studies on eating disorders have been conducted – all on anorexia nervosa (AN). For AN, several risk loci have been detected, and ~11–17% of the heritability has been accounted for by common genetic variants. There is extensive genetic overlap between AN and psychological traits, especially obsessive-compulsive disorder, and intriguingly, with metabolic phenotypes even after adjusting for body mass index (BMI) risk variants. Furthermore, genetic risk variants predisposing to lower BMI may be causal risk factors for AN. Causal genes and biological pathways of eating disorders have yet to be elucidated and will require greater sample sizes and statistical power, and functional follow-up studies. Several studies are underway to recruit individuals with bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder to enable further genome-wide studies. Data collections and research labs focused on the genetics of eating disorders have joined together in a global effort with the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium. Molecular genetics research in the genome-wide era is improving knowledge about the biology behind the established heritability of eating disorders. This has the potential to offer new hope for understanding eating disorder etiology and for overcoming the therapeutic challenges that confront the eating disorder field.
Anxiety disorders are among the most common psychiatric disorders worldwide. They often onset early in life, with symptoms and consequences that can persist for decades. This makes anxiety disorders some of the most debilitating and costly disorders of our time. Although much is known about the synaptic and circuit mechanisms of fear and anxiety, research on the underlying genetics has lagged behind that of other psychiatric disorders. However, alongside the formation of the Psychiatric Genomic Consortium Anxiety workgroup, progress is rapidly advancing, offering opportunities for future research.
Here we review current knowledge about the genetics of anxiety across the lifespan from genetically informative designs (i.e. twin studies and molecular genetics). We include studies of specific anxiety disorders (e.g. panic disorder, generalised anxiety disorder) as well as those using dimensional measures of trait anxiety. We particularly address findings from large-scale genome-wide association studies and show how such discoveries may provide opportunities for translation into improved or new therapeutics for affected individuals. Finally, we describe how discoveries in anxiety genetics open the door to numerous new research possibilities, such as the investigation of specific gene–environment interactions and the disentangling of causal associations with related traits and disorders.
We discuss how the field of anxiety genetics is expected to move forward. In addition to the obvious need for larger sample sizes in genome-wide studies, we highlight the need for studies among young people, focusing on specific underlying dimensional traits or components of anxiety.
Self-harm is a major health concern, not only as a signal of distress but also as a strong predictor of later suicide. Self-harm can be further refined into suicidal self-harm (SSH, i.e. suicide attempt) and non-suicidal self-harm (NSSH). Understanding the aetiologies of NSSH and SSH can help inform suicide prevention strategies. Using a twin design, we investigated the phenotypic and aetiological relationships between NSSH and SSH, and their aetiological overlap with mental health problems.
We analysed data from the Twins Early Development Study using structural equation modelling. At age 21 years, 9063 twins (62.4% female) answered questions related to self-harm. At age 16 years, 19 self- or parent-reported mental health measures were administered, including measures of internalising and externalising problems, psychotic-like experiences and substance abuse.
Prevalences for NSSH and SSH were 21.9% and 10.5%, respectively. Additive genetic factors explained half of the variance in NSSH (55%) and SSH (50%), with the rest explained by non-shared environmental factors. Phenotypically, NSSH and SSH were strongly correlated (r = 0.87) with their correlation explained by genetic (57%) and non-shared environmental (43%) factors. We found no evidence that NSSH and SSH differed in their phenotypic and aetiological relationships with mental health measures.
Our findings suggest no aetiological difference between NSSH and SSH. NSSH and SSH should be regarded as two different ends of a continuum, rather than as two distinct categories.
Schizophrenia is a severe psychiatric disorder with high heritability. Consortia efforts and technological advancements have led to a substantial increase in knowledge of the genetic architecture of schizophrenia over the past decade. In this article, we provide an overview of the current understanding of the genetics of schizophrenia, outline remaining challenges, and summarise future directions of research. World-wide collaborations have resulted in genome-wide association studies (GWAS) in over 56 000 schizophrenia cases and 78 000 controls, which identified 176 distinct genetic loci. The latest GWAS from the Psychiatric Genetics Consortium, available as a pre-print, indicates that 270 distinct common genetic loci have now been associated with schizophrenia. Polygenic risk scores can currently explain around 7.7% of the variance in schizophrenia case-control status. Rare variant studies have implicated eight rare copy-number variants, and an increased burden of loss-of-function variants in SETD1A, as increasing the risk of schizophrenia. The latest exome sequencing study, available as a pre-print, implicates a burden of rare coding variants in a further nine genes. Gene-set analyses have demonstrated significant enrichment of both common and rare genetic variants associated with schizophrenia in synaptic pathways. To address current challenges, future genetic studies of schizophrenia need increased sample sizes from more diverse populations. Continued expansion of international collaboration will likely identify new genetic regions, improve fine-mapping to identify causal variants, and increase our understanding of the biology and mechanisms of schizophrenia.
The UK Biobank contains data with varying degrees of reliability and completeness for assessing depression. A third of participants completed a Mental Health Questionnaire (MHQ) containing the gold-standard Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI) criteria for assessing mental health disorders.
To investigate whether multiple observations of depression from sources other than the MHQ can enhance the validity of major depressive disorder (MDD).
In participants who did not complete the MHQ, we calculated the number of other depression measures endorsed, for example from hospital episode statistics and interview data. We compared cases defined this way with CIDI-defined cases for several estimates: the variance explained by polygenic risk scores (PRS), area under the curve attributable to PRS, single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs)-based heritability and genetic correlations with summary statistics from the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium MDD genome-wide association study.
The strength of the genetic contribution increased with the number of measures endorsed. For example, SNP-based heritability increased from 7% in participants who endorsed only one measure of depression, to 21% in those who endorsed four or five measures of depression. The strength of the genetic contribution to cases defined by at least two measures approximated that for CIDI-defined cases. Most genetic correlations between UK Biobank and the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium MDD study exceeded 0.7, but there was variability between pairwise comparisons.
Multiple measures of depression can serve as a reliable approximation for case status where the CIDI measure is not available, indicating sample size can be optimised using the entire suite of UK Biobank data.
Neoplasms arising from precursor lymphoid cells committed to the B-cell or T-cell lineage can present primarily in the bone marrow (BM), blood (i.e. leukaemic presentation) or at extramedullary tissue sites (i.e. lymphomatous presentation) (Table 14.1). Hence, these neoplasms are appropriately termed as B- or T-lymphoblastic leukaemia/lymphoma [1, 2].
Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) comprise a heterogeneous group of myeloid neoplasms defined by peripheral cytopaenia, morphologic dysplasia in one or more haematopoietic lineages, and genetic instability with risk of transformation to acute myeloid leukaemia (AML). A diagnosis of MDS requires the presence of cytopaenia, plus one or more of the following diagnostic features: morphologic evidence of dysplasia in >10% of cells involving at least one haematopoietic lineage, increased blasts, and/or an MDS-defining cytogenetic abnormality. Modern diagnosis of MDS was standardized by the French–American–British (FAB) cooperative group in 1982, which included the first standard descriptions of myelodysplasia , and was further refined in the World Health Organization (WHO) classification of 2001, which more specifically quantified dysplasia (Table 8.1) .
Genotype-first and within-family studies can elucidate factors that contribute to psychiatric illness. Combining these approaches, we investigated the patterns of influence of parental scores, a high-impact variant, and schizophrenia on dimensional neurobehavioral phenotypes implicated in major psychiatric disorders.
We quantitatively assessed cognitive (FSIQ, VIQ, PIQ), social, and motor functioning in 82 adult individuals with a de novo 22q11.2 deletion (22 with schizophrenia), and 148 of their unaffected parents. We calculated within-family correlations and effect sizes of the 22q11.2 deletion and schizophrenia, and used linear regressions to assess contributions to neurobehavioral measures.
Proband-parent intra-class correlations (ICC) were significant for cognitive measures (e.g. FSIQ ICC = 0.549, p < 0.0001), but not for social or motor measures. Compared to biparental scores, the 22q11.2 deletion conferred significant impairments for all phenotypes assessed (effect sizes −1.39 to −2.07 s.d.), strongest for PIQ. There were further decrements in those with schizophrenia. Regression models explained up to 37.7% of the variance in IQ and indicated that for proband IQ, parental IQ had larger effects than schizophrenia.
This study, for the first time, disentangles the impact of a high-impact variant from the modifying effects of parental scores and schizophrenia on relevant neurobehavioral phenotypes. The robust proband-parent correlations for cognitive measures, independent of the impact of the 22q11.2 deletion and of schizophrenia, suggest that, for certain phenotypes, shared genetic variation plays a significant role in expression. Molecular genetic and predictor studies are needed to elucidate shared factors and their contribution to psychiatric illness in this and other high-risk groups.
A 17-year-old boy with a history of dyspnea attacks and chest pain was referred to our paediatric cardiology department. Electrocardiogram at presentation showed T-wave inversion in the inferior leads. Cardiovascular magnetic resonance imaging revealed the rare diagnosis of apical hypertrophic cardiomyopathy with subendocardial late gadolinium enhancement, missed by echocardiography.
There has been relatively limited work focused on understanding whether relatives of individuals with bipolar disorder (BD) have difficulties in the regulation of emotion, particularly in relation to perceptions about whether emotions can be effectively regulated, or trait behaviours that acknowledge emotions as self-regulators themselves. In this study, we assessed the presence and extent of difficulties in these dimensions of emotion regulation in individuals with BD compared to unaffected first-degree biological relatives (FDR) for the first time.
In total, 161 participants, including euthymic individuals with BD, unaffected FDRs, and healthy controls, were compared on the Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale (DERS) – a multi-dimensional measure of habitual emotion regulation. Clinical data were also collected and examined in relation to DERS scores in a secondary analysis.
In the BD group, difficulties were evident for most dimensions of emotion regulation as measured by the DERS; and correlated with an earlier onset of illness and more mood episodes. FDRs displayed generally normal emotion regulation, except in terms of their beliefs that emotions can be effectively regulated; on this dimension, their reported difficulty was intermediate to the BD group and controls.
Habitual emotion regulation difficulties in BD persist irrespective of mood state, are related to the course of illness, and should be targeted in psychological interventions. Further, the perception that emotions cannot be effectively regulated during times of distress seems to represent an endophenotype for BD.
Chapter 3: This chapter charts the intersections between theatre and science and explores how experience and experiment are interlinked in each domain. Looking at three key scientific ideas and theatrical moments, the chapter draws out contextual aspects of the science that reflect the scientific concerns of their moments. Exploring first a play from the early years of the recent resurgence in the interest in theatre and science, the chapter investigates how the biological and medical sciences with their obvious link to genetic testing and human experience are represented, and moves on to consider how science, gender, and life become crystal clear in early twenty-first century theatre. It concludes by looking at how theatre is shaped by the experience of climate change and its science in the 2010s through two very different plays, one a staged lecture and the other a production whose deliberate excess results in an expansive ‘epic’ theatrical form that appears to take precedence over the science.
The ‘16Up’ study conducted at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute from January 2014 to December 2018 aimed to examine the physical and mental health of young Australian twins aged 16−18 years (N = 876; 371 twin pairs and 18 triplet sets). Measurements included online questionnaires covering physical and mental health as well as information and communication technology (ICT) use, actigraphy, sleep diaries and hair samples to determine cortisol concentrations. Study participants generally rated themselves as being in good physical (79%) and mental (73%) health and reported lower rates of psychological distress and exposure to alcohol, tobacco products or other substances than previously reported for this age group in the Australian population. Daily or near-daily online activity was almost universal among study participants, with no differences noted between males and females in terms of frequency or duration of internet access. Patterns of ICT use in this sample indicated that the respondents were more likely to use online information sources for researching physical health issues than for mental health or substance use issues, and that they generally reported partial levels of satisfaction with the mental health information they found online. This suggests that internet-based mental health resources can be readily accessed by adolescent Australians, and their computer literacy augurs well for future access to online health resources. In combination with other data collected as part of the ongoing Brisbane Longitudinal Twin Study, the 16Up project provides a valuable resource for the longitudinal investigation of genetic and environmental contributions to phenotypic variation in a variety of human traits.