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Most studies underline the contribution of heritable factors for psychiatric disorders. However, heritability estimates depend on the population under study, diagnostic instruments, and study designs that each has its inherent assumptions, strengths, and biases. We aim to test the homogeneity in heritability estimates between two powerful, and state of the art study designs for eight psychiatric disorders.
We assessed heritability based on data of Swedish siblings (N = 4 408 646 full and maternal half-siblings), and based on summary data of eight samples with measured genotypes (N = 125 533 cases and 208 215 controls). All data were based on standard diagnostic criteria. Eight psychiatric disorders were studied: (1) alcohol dependence (AD), (2) anorexia nervosa, (3) attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), (4) autism spectrum disorder, (5) bipolar disorder, (6) major depressive disorder, (7) obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and (8) schizophrenia.
Heritability estimates from sibling data varied from 0.30 for Major Depression to 0.80 for ADHD. The estimates based on the measured genotypes were lower, ranging from 0.10 for AD to 0.28 for OCD, but were significant, and correlated positively (0.19) with national sibling-based estimates. When removing OCD from the data the correlation increased to 0.50.
Given the unique character of each study design, the convergent findings for these eight psychiatric conditions suggest that heritability estimates are robust across different methods. The findings also highlight large differences in genetic and environmental influences between psychiatric disorders, providing future directions for etiological psychiatric research.
While many neuroimaging studies have investigated the neurobiological basis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), few have studied the neurobiology of attention problems in the general population. The ability to pay attention falls along a continuum within the population, with children with ADHD at one extreme of the spectrum and, therefore, a dimensional perspective of evaluating attention problems has an added value to the existing literature. Our goal was to investigate the relationship between cortical thickness and inattention and hyperactivity symptoms in a large population of young children.
This study is embedded within the Generation R Study and includes 6- to 8-year-old children (n = 444) with parent-reported attention and hyperactivity measures and high-resolution structural imaging data. We investigated the relationship between cortical thickness across the entire brain and the Child Behavior Checklist Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Problems score.
We found that greater attention problems and hyperactivity were associated with a thinner right and left postcentral gyrus. When correcting for potential confounding factors and multiple testing, these associations remained significant.
In a large, population-based sample we showed that young (6- to 8-year-old) children who show more attention problems and hyperactivity have a thinner cortex in the region of the right and left postcentral gyrus. The postcentral gyrus, being the primary somatosensory cortex, reaches its peak growth early in development. Therefore, the thinner cortex in this region may reflect either a deviation in cortical maturation or a failure to reach the same peak cortical thickness compared with children without attention or hyperactivity problems.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms and autistic traits often occur together. The pattern and etiology of co-occurrence are largely unknown, particularly in adults. This study investigated the co-occurrence between both traits in detail, and subsequently examined the etiology of the co-occurrence, using two independent adult population samples.
Data on ADHD traits (Inattention and Hyperactivity/Impulsivity) were collected in a population sample (S1, n = 559) of unrelated individuals. Data on Attention Problems (AP) were collected in a population-based family sample of twins and siblings (S2, n = 560). In both samples five dimensions of autistic traits were assessed (social skills, routine, attentional switching, imagination, patterns).
Hyperactive traits (S1) did not correlate substantially with the autistic trait dimensions. For Inattention (S1) and AP (S2), the correlations with the autistic trait dimensions were low, apart from a prominent correlation with the attentional switching scale (0.47 and 0.32 respectively). Analyses in the genetically informative S2 revealed that this association could be explained by a shared genetic factor.
Our findings suggest that the co-occurrence of ADHD traits and autistic traits in adults is not determined by problems with hyperactivity, social skills, imagination or routine preferences. Instead, the association between those traits is due primarily to shared attention-related problems (inattention and attentional switching capacity). As the etiology of this association is purely genetic, biological pathways involving attentional control could be a promising focus of future studies aimed at unraveling the genetic causes of these disorders.
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