Accelerated Cortical Thinning in Schizophrenia Is Associated With Rare and Common Predisposing Variation to Schizophrenia and Neurodevelopmental Disorders

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Abstract

Background: Schizophrenia is a highly heritable disorder characterized by increased cortical thinning throughout the life span. Studies have reported a shared genetic basis between schizophrenia and cortical thickness. However, no genes whose expression is related to abnormal cortical thinning in schizophrenia have been identified. Methods: We conducted linear mixed models to estimate the rates of accelerated cortical thinning across 68 regions from the Desikan-Killiany atlas in individuals with schizophrenia compared with healthy control participants from a large longitudinal sample (ncases = 169 and ncontrols = 298, ages 16–70 years). We studied the correlation between gene expression data from the Allen Human Brain Atlas and accelerated thinning estimates across cortical regions. Finally, we explored the functional and genetic underpinnings of the genes that contribute most to accelerated thinning. Results: We found a global pattern of accelerated cortical thinning in individuals with schizophrenia compared with healthy control participants. Genes underexpressed in cortical regions that exhibit this accelerated thinning were downregulated in several psychiatric disorders and were enriched for both common and rare disrupting variation for schizophrenia and neurodevelopmental disorders. In contrast, none of these enrichments were observed for baseline cross-sectional cortical thickness differences. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that accelerated cortical thinning, rather than cortical thickness alone, serves as an informative phenotype for neurodevelopmental disruptions in schizophrenia. We highlight the genetic and transcriptomic correlates of this accelerated cortical thinning, emphasizing the need for future longitudinal studies to elucidate the role of genetic variation and the temporal-spatial dynamics of gene expression in brain development and aging in schizophrenia.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBiological Psychiatry
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Keywords

  • Brain imaging
  • Cortical thinning
  • Genetics
  • Schizophrenia
  • Transcriptomics

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