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Professor Nicholas G. Martin, from QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Brisbane, Australia, is a world leader in the effort to understand the genetic architecture underlying disordered gambling. This article pays tribute to Nick and his almost two decades of gambling research, highlighting his many strengths, ranging from the use of ingenious recruitment approaches, twin study methods, genomewide association studies, to facilitating international collaborations.
The aim of the 25 and Up (25Up) study was to assess a wide range of psychological and behavioral risk factors behind mental illness in a large cohort of Australian twins and their non-twin siblings. Participants had already been studied longitudinally from the age of 12 and most recently in the 19Up study (mean age = 26.1 years, SD = 4.1, range = 20–39). This subsequent wave follows up these twins several years later in life (mean age = 29.7 years, SD = 2.2, range = 22–44). The resulting data set enables additional detailed investigations of genetic pathways underlying psychiatric illnesses in the Brisbane Longitudinal Twin Study (BLTS). Data were collected between 2016 and 2018 from 2540 twins and their non-twin siblings (59% female, including 341 monozygotic complete twin-pairs, 415 dizygotic complete pairs and 1028 non-twin siblings and singletons). Participants were from South-East Queensland, Australia, and the sample was of predominantly European ancestry. The 25Up study collected information on 20 different mental disorders, including depression, anxiety, substance use, psychosis, bipolar and attention-deficit hyper-activity disorder, as well as general demographic information such as occupation, education level, number of children, self-perceived IQ and household environment. In this article, we describe the prevalence, comorbidities and age of onset for all 20 examined disorders. The 25Up study also assessed general and physical health, including physical activity, sleep patterns, eating behaviors, baldness, acne, migraines and allergies, as well as psychosocial items such as suicidality, perceived stress, loneliness, aggression, sleep–wake cycle, sexual identity and preferences, technology and internet use, traumatic life events, gambling and cyberbullying. In addition, 25Up assessed female health traits such as morning sickness, breastfeeding and endometriosis. Furthermore, given that the 25Up study is an extension of previous BLTS studies, 86% of participants have already been genotyped. This rich resource will enable the assessment of epidemiological risk factors, as well as the heritability and genetic correlations of mental conditions.
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.
Approximately half of the variation in wellbeing measures overlaps with variation in personality traits. Studies of non-human primate pedigrees and human twins suggest that this is due to common genetic influences. We tested whether personality polygenic scores for the NEO Five-Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI) domains and for item response theory (IRT) derived extraversion and neuroticism scores predict variance in wellbeing measures. Polygenic scores were based on published genome-wide association (GWA) results in over 17,000 individuals for the NEO-FFI and in over 63,000 for the IRT extraversion and neuroticism traits. The NEO-FFI polygenic scores were used to predict life satisfaction in 7 cohorts, positive affect in 12 cohorts, and general wellbeing in 1 cohort (maximal N = 46,508). Meta-analysis of these results showed no significant association between NEO-FFI personality polygenic scores and the wellbeing measures. IRT extraversion and neuroticism polygenic scores were used to predict life satisfaction and positive affect in almost 37,000 individuals from UK Biobank. Significant positive associations (effect sizes <0.05%) were observed between the extraversion polygenic score and wellbeing measures, and a negative association was observed between the polygenic neuroticism score and life satisfaction. Furthermore, using GWA data, genetic correlations of -0.49 and -0.55 were estimated between neuroticism with life satisfaction and positive affect, respectively. The moderate genetic correlation between neuroticism and wellbeing is in line with twin research showing that genetic influences on wellbeing are also shared with other independent personality domains.
Persistent tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption are major public health concerns worldwide. Both alcohol and nicotine dependence (AD, ND) are genetically influenced complex disorders that exhibit a high degree of comorbidity. To identify gene variants contributing to one or both of these addictions, we first conducted a pooling-based genomewide association study (GWAS) in an Australian population, using Illumina Infinium 1M arrays. Allele frequency differences were compared between pooled DNA from case and control groups for: (1) AD, 1224 cases and 1162 controls; (2) ND, 1273 cases and 1113 controls; and (3) comorbid AD and ND, 599 cases and 488 controls. Secondly, we carried out a GWAS in independent samples from the Netherlands for AD and for ND. Thirdly, we performed a meta-analysis of the 10, 000 most significant AD- and ND-related SNPs from the Australian and Dutch samples. In the Australian GWAS, one SNP achieved genomewide significance (p < 5 x 10-8) for ND (rs964170 in ARHGAPlOon chromosome 4, p = 4.43 x 10”8) and three others for comorbid AD/ND (rs7530302 near MARK1 on chromosome 1 (p = 1.90 x 10-9), rs1784300 near DDX6 on chromosome 11 (p = 2.60 x 10-9) and rs12882384 in KIAA1409 on chromosome 14 (p = 4.86 x 10-8)). None of the SNPs achieved genomewide significance in the Australian/Dutch meta-analysis, but a gene network diagram based on the top-results revealed overrepre-sentation of genes coding for ion-channels and cell adhesion molecules. Further studies will be requirec before the detailed causes of comorbidity between AC and ND are understood.
Excessive internet use has been linked to psychopathology. Therefore, understanding the genetic and environmental risks underpinning internet use and their relation to psychopathology is important. This study aims to explore the genetic and environmental etiology of internet use measures and their associations with internalizing disorders and substance use disorders. The sample included 2,059 monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) young adult twins from the Brisbane Longitudinal Twin Study (BLTS). Younger participants reported more frequent internet use, while women were more likely to use the internet for interpersonal communication. Familial aggregation in ‘frequency of internet use’ was entirely explained by additive genetic factors accounting for 41% of the variance. Familial aggregation in ‘frequency of use after 11 pm’, ‘using the internet to contact peers’, and ‘using the internet primarily to access social networking sites’ was attributable to varying combinations of additive genetic and shared environmental factors. In terms of psychopathology, there were no significant associations between internet use measures and major depression (MD), but there were positive significant associations between ‘frequency of internet use’ and ‘frequency of use after 11 pm’ with social phobia (SP). ‘Using the internet to contact peers’ was positively associated with alcohol abuse, whereas ‘using the internet to contact peers’ and ‘using the internet primarily to access social networking sites’ were negatively associated with cannabis use disorders and nicotine symptoms. Individual differences in internet use can be attributable to varying degrees of genetic and environmental risks. Despite some significant associations of small effect, variation in internet use appears mostly unrelated to psychopathology.
Multiple reports have identified variation in the GABRA2 gene as contributing to the genetic susceptibility to alcohol dependence. However, both the mechanism behind this association, and the range of alcohol-related phenotypes affected by variation in this gene, are currently undefined. Other data suggest that the risk of alcohol dependence is increased by relative insensitivity to alcohol's intoxicating effects. We have therefore tested whether GABRA2 variation is associated with variation in the subjective and objective effects of a standard dose of alcohol in humans. Data on responses to alcohol from the Alcohol Challenge Twin Study (Martin et al., 1985) have been tested against allelic and haplotype information obtained by typing 41 single-nucleotide polymorphisms in or close to the GABRA2 gene. Nominally significant allelic associations (p < .05, without correction for multiple testing) were found for body sway, motor coordination, pursuit rotor and arithmetical computation tasks, and for the personality dimension of Neuroticism. Because of the large number of phenotypes tested, these possibly significant findings will need to be confirmed in further studies.
Alcohol dependence symptoms and consumption measures were examined for stability and heritability. Data were collected from 12,045 individuals (5376 twin pairs, 1293 single twins) aged 19 to 90 years in telephone interviews conducted in three collection phases. Phases 1 and 2 were independent samples, but Phase 3 targeted families of smokers and drinkers from the Phase 1 and 2 samples. The stability of dependence symptoms and consumption was examined for 1158 individuals interviewed in both Phases 1 and 3 (mean interval = 11.0 years). For 1818 individuals interviewed in Phases 2 and 3 (mean interval = 5.5 years) the stability of consumption was examined. Heritability was examined for each collection phase and retest samples from the selected Phase 3 collection. The measures examined were a dependence score, based on DSM-IIIR and DSM-IV criteria for substance dependence, and a quantity × frequency measure. Measures were moderately stable, with test–retest correlations ranging from .58 to .61 for dependence and from .55 to .64 for consumption. However, the pattern of changes over time for dependence suggested that the measure may more strongly reflect recent than lifetime experience. Similar to previous findings, heritabilities ranged from .42 to .51 for dependence and from .31 to .51 for consumption. Consumption was significantly less heritable in the younger Phase 2 cohort (23–39 years) compared to the older Phase 1 cohort (28–90 years).
Objective: As post-pregnancy weight retention in women is a risk factor for obesity later in life, we assessed the changes in magnitude of genetic and environmental variation in BMI due to parity in an Australian female sample, comprising 11,915 female twins and their sisters. Results: Total variance of BMI increased with parity, primarily driven by an increase in nonadditive genetic variance. This finding was of particular interest given Gutersohn et al's (2000) report of recessive association between post-partum weight retention and the 825T allele of the GNβ3 gene (rs5443) at 12p13.31. Hence, we attempted to replicate this association and test an additional three SNPs also located near or on GNβ3 (rs10744716 (upstream), rs5442 (exon 10), rs5446 (exon 11)) in a sample of 3131 females and 1693 males from 2585 twin families. No association was found between these SNPs among females, even when allowing for a genotype by parity effect. However, a significant association was observed among males for rs10744716 (χ22 = 10.22, p = 0.006; effect size = 0.47kg/m2), representing a novel association between a region upstream of GNβ3 and male BMI.
Impulsivity is a personality trait characterized by acting suddenly in an unplanned manner in order to satisfy a desire without consideration for the consequences of such behavior. There are several psychiatric disorders that include the term impulsivity as a criterion and, therefore, it has been suggested that impulsivity may be an important phenotype that may link a number of different behavioral disorders, including substance abuse. This study's aims were to determine if a significant association could be detected between the (AAT)n triplet repeat polymorphism as well as 5 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in or near the CNR1 receptor gene and impulsivity in Southwest California ‘Mission’ Indians (SWC). Impulsivity was assessed using a scale derived from the Maudsley personality inventory, and blood samples were collected for DNA analyses from 251 individuals recruited from local Indian reservations. The estimated heritability (h2) for the impulsivity phenotype was 0.20 + 0.12 (p < .004). Impulsivity was significantly associated with the 6-repeat allele of the triplet repeat polymorphism (AATn/A6; p < .0001), as well as four SNPs in or near the CNR1 receptor gene: rs1535255 (p = .001), rs2023239 (p = .004), rs1049353 (p < .001) and rs806368 (p < .0006). These studies provide data to suggest that the CNR1 receptor gene may be significantly associated with impulsivity in SWC Indians.
Human height is a highly heritable trait, with genetic factors explaining up to 90% of phenotypic variation. Vitamin D levels are known to influence several physiological processes, including skeletal growth. The vitamin D receptor (VDR) gene has been reported as contributing to variation in height. A meta-analysis of 13607 adult individuals found a small but significant association with the rs1544410 (BsmI) polymorphism. In contrast, the meta-analysis found no effect in a sample of 550 children. Two recent studies reported variants with large effect on height elsewhere in VDR (rs10735810 [FokI] and rs7139166 [-1521] polymorphisms). We genotyped large Caucasian samples from Australia (N = 3906) and the Netherlands (N = 1689) for polymorphisms in VDR. The Australian samples were twin families with height measures from 3 time points throughout adolescence. The Dutch samples were adult twins. We use the available family data to perform both within and between family tests of association. We found no significant associations for any of the genotyped variants after multiple testing correction. The (non-significant) effect of rs1544410 in the Australian adolescent cohort was in the same direction and of similar magnitude (additive effect 0.3cm) to the effect observed in the published adult meta-analysis. An effect of this size explains ~0.1% of the phenotypic variance in height — this implies that many, probably hundreds, of such variants are responsible for the observed genetic variation. Our results did not support any role for two other regions (rs10735810, rs7139166) of VDR in explaining variation in height.
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