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It has not yet been determined if the commonly reported cannabis–psychosis association is limited to individuals with pre-existing genetic risk for psychotic disorders.
We examined whether the relationship between polygenic risk score for schizophrenia (PRS-Sz) and psychotic-like experiences (PLEs), as measured by the Community Assessment of Psychic Experiences-42 (CAPE-42) questionnaire, is mediated or moderated by lifetime cannabis use at 16 years of age in 1740 of the individuals of the European IMAGEN cohort. Secondary analysis examined the relationships between lifetime cannabis use, PRS-Sz and the various sub-scales of the CAPE-42. Sensitivity analyses including covariates, including a PRS for cannabis use, were conducted and results were replicated using data from 1223 individuals in the Dutch Utrecht cannabis cohort.
PRS-Sz significantly predicted cannabis use (p = 0.027) and PLE (p = 0.004) in the IMAGEN cohort. In the full model, considering PRS-Sz and covariates, cannabis use was also significantly associated with PLE in IMAGEN (p = 0.007). Results remained consistent in the Utrecht cohort and through sensitivity analyses. Nevertheless, there was no evidence of a mediation or moderation effects.
These results suggest that cannabis use remains a risk factor for PLEs, over and above genetic vulnerability for schizophrenia. This research does not support the notion that the cannabis–psychosis link is limited to individuals who are genetically predisposed to psychosis and suggests a need for research focusing on cannabis-related processes in psychosis that cannot be explained by genetic vulnerability.
Sex-related differences in psychopathology are known phenomena, with externalizing and internalizing symptoms typically more common in boys and girls, respectively. However, the neural correlates of these sex-by-psychopathology interactions are underinvestigated, particularly in adolescence.
Participants were 14 years of age and part of the IMAGEN study, a large (N = 1526) community-based sample. To test for sex-by-psychopathology interactions in structural grey matter volume (GMV), we used whole-brain, voxel-wise neuroimaging analyses based on robust non-parametric methods. Psychopathological symptom data were derived from the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ).
We found a sex-by-hyperactivity/inattention interaction in four brain clusters: right temporoparietal-opercular region (p < 0.01, Cohen's d = −0.24), bilateral anterior and mid-cingulum (p < 0.05, Cohen's d = −0.18), right cerebellum and fusiform (p < 0.05, Cohen's d = −0.20) and left frontal superior and middle gyri (p < 0.05, Cohen's d = −0.26). Higher symptoms of hyperactivity/inattention were associated with lower GMV in all four brain clusters in boys, and with higher GMV in the temporoparietal-opercular and cerebellar-fusiform clusters in girls.
Using a large, sex-balanced and community-based sample, our study lends support to the idea that externalizing symptoms of hyperactivity/inattention may be associated with different neural structures in male and female adolescents. The brain regions we report have been associated with a myriad of important cognitive functions, in particular, attention, cognitive and motor control, and timing, that are potentially relevant to understand the behavioural manifestations of hyperactive and inattentive symptoms. This study highlights the importance of considering sex in our efforts to uncover mechanisms underlying psychopathology during adolescence.
Tobacco smoking remains one of the leading causes of preventable illness and death and is heritable with complex underpinnings. Converging evidence suggests a contribution of the polygenic risk for smoking to the use of tobacco and other substances. Yet, the underlying brain mechanisms between the genetic risk and tobacco smoking remain poorly understood.
Genomic, neuroimaging, and self-report data were acquired from a large cohort of adolescents from the IMAGEN study (a European multicenter study). Polygenic risk scores (PGRS) for smoking were calculated based on a genome-wide association study meta-analysis conducted by the Tobacco and Genetics Consortium. We examined the interrelationships among the genetic risk for smoking initiation, brain structure, and the number of occasions of tobacco use.
A higher smoking PGRS was significantly associated with both an increased number of occasions of tobacco use and smaller cortical volume of the right orbitofrontal cortex (OFC). Furthermore, reduced cortical volume within this cluster correlated with greater tobacco use. A subsequent path analysis suggested that the cortical volume within this cluster partially mediated the association between the genetic risk for smoking and the number of occasions of tobacco use.
Our data provide the first evidence for the involvement of the OFC in the relationship between smoking PGRS and tobacco use. Future studies of the molecular mechanisms underlying tobacco smoking should consider the mediation effect of the related neural structure.
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