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Childhood is a crucial neurodevelopmental period. We investigated whether childhood reading for pleasure (RfP) was related to young adolescent assessments of cognition, mental health, and brain structure.
We conducted a cross-sectional and longitudinal study in a large-scale US national cohort (10 000 + young adolescents), using the well-established linear mixed model and structural equation methods for twin study, longitudinal and mediation analyses. A 2-sample Mendelian randomization (MR) analysis for potential causal inference was also performed. Important factors including socio-economic status were controlled.
Early-initiated long-standing childhood RfP (early RfP) was highly positively correlated with performance on cognitive tests and significantly negatively correlated with mental health problem scores of young adolescents. These participants with higher early RfP scores exhibited moderately larger total brain cortical areas and volumes, with increased regions including the temporal, frontal, insula, supramarginal; left angular, para-hippocampal; right middle-occipital, anterior-cingulate, orbital areas; and subcortical ventral-diencephalon and thalamus. These brain structures were significantly related to their cognitive and mental health scores, and displayed significant mediation effects. Early RfP was longitudinally associated with higher crystallized cognition and lower attention symptoms at follow-up. Approximately 12 h/week of youth regular RfP was cognitively optimal. We further observed a moderately significant heritability of early RfP, with considerable contribution from environments. MR analysis revealed beneficial causal associations of early RfP with adult cognitive performance and left superior temporal structure.
These findings, for the first time, revealed the important relationships of early RfP with subsequent brain and cognitive development and mental well-being.
Schizophrenia is considered a polygenic disorder. People with schizophrenia and those with genetic high risk of schizophrenia (GHR) have presented with similar neurodevelopmental deficits in hemispheric asymmetry. The potential associations between neurodevelopmental abnormalities and schizophrenia-related risk genes in both schizophrenia and those with GHR remains unclear.
To investigate the shared and specific alternations to the structural network in people with schizophrenia and those with GHR. And to identify an association between vulnerable structural network alternation and schizophrenia-related risk genes.
A total of 97 participants with schizophrenia, 79 participants with GHR and 192 healthy controls, underwent diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) scans at a single site. We used graph theory to characterise hemispheric and whole-brain structural network topological metrics. For 26 people in the schizophrenia group and 48 in the GHR group with DTI scans we also calculated their schizophrenia-related polygenic risk scores (SZ-PRSs). The correlations between alterations to the structural network and SZ-PRSs were calculated. Based on the identified genetic–neural association, bioinformatics enrichment was explored.
There were significant hemispheric asymmetric deficits of nodal efficiency, global and local efficiency in the schizophrenia and GHR groups. Hemispheric asymmetric deficit of local efficiency was significantly positively correlated with SZ-PRSs in the schizophrenia and GHR groups. Bioinformatics enrichment analysis showed that these risk genes may be linked to signal transduction, neural development and neuron structure. The schizophrenia group showed a significant decrease in the whole-brain structural network.
The shared asymmetric deficits in people with schizophrenia and those with GHR, and the association between anomalous asymmetry and SZ-PRSs suggested a vulnerability imaging marker regulated by schizophrenia-related risk genes. Our findings provide new insights into asymmetry regulated by risk genes and provides a better understanding of the genetic–neural pathological underpinnings of schizophrenia.
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