Padgett, Billie L. (University of Wisconsin, Madison), Margaret J. Wright, Anne Jayne, and Duard L. Walker. Electron microscopic structure of myxoma virus and some reactivable derivatives. J. Bacteriol. 87:454–460. 1964.—The phosphotungstate negative staining technique was used to study the fine structure of myxoma virus particles and of reactivable derivatives in an electron microscope. Two general types of particles were observed in preparations of myxoma virus grown in rabbit kidney cells in tissue culture. The most common form is rounded or rectangular, with an average length and width of 296 by 254 mμ. The surface of this type of particle is convoluted, and is composed of tubular elements arranged in a complex fashion; the particle is frequently surrounded by a membrane. The second form, which was seen less frequently, is more rectangular and slightly larger. It has a closely fitting membrane, a finely granular surface, and the only internal structures discernible are present in a zone about 150 A wide, just beneath the membrane. Reactivable myxoma virus particles were prepared by treating myxoma virus with heat, urea, sodium dodecyl sulfate, and ethyl ether. The appearance of the particles after inactivation by heat, urea, and sodium dodecyl sulfate is described.
Recently, carriers of a common variant in the autism risk gene, CNTNAP2, were found to have altered functional brain connectivity using functional MRI. Here we scanned 328 young adults with high-field (4-Tesla) diffusion imaging, to test the hypothesis that carriers of this gene variant would have altered structural brain connectivity. All participants (209 females, 119 males, age: 23.4 +/−2.17 SD years) were scanned with 105-gradient high angular diffusion imaging (HARDI) at 4 Tesla. After performing a whole-brain fiber tractography using the full angular resolution of the diffusion scans, 70 cortical surface-based regions of interest were created from each individual’s co-registered anatomical data to compute graph metrics for all pairs of cortical regions. In graph theory analyses, subjects homozygous for the risk allele (CC) had lower characteristic path length, greater small-worldness and global efficiency in whole brain analyses, as well as greater eccentricity (maximum path length) in 60 of 70 nodes in regional analyses. These results were not reducible to differences in more commonly studied traits such as fiber density or fractional anisotropy. This is the first study to link graph theory metrics of brain structural connectivity to a common genetic variant linked with autism and will help us understand the neurobiology of circuits implicated in risk for autism.
structural connectivity; HARDI; autism; CNTNAP2; graph theory; twins
We address the problem of segmenting high angular resolution diffusion imaging (HARDI) data into multiple regions (or fiber tracts) with distinct diffusion properties. We use the orientation distribution function (ODF) to represent HARDI data and cast the problem as a clustering problem in the space of ODFs. Our approach integrates tools from sparse representation theory and Riemannian geometry into a graph theoretic segmentation framework. By exploiting the Riemannian properties of the space of ODFs, we learn a sparse representation for each ODF and infer the segmentation by applying spectral clustering to a similarity matrix built from these representations. In cases where regions with similar (resp. distinct) diffusion properties belong to different (resp. same) fiber tracts, we obtain the segmentation by incorporating spatial and user-specified pairwise relationships into the formulation. Experiments on synthetic data evaluate the sensitivity of our method to image noise and the presence of complex fiber configurations, and show its superior performance compared to alternative segmentation methods. Experiments on phantom and real data demonstrate the accuracy of the proposed method in segmenting simulated fibers, as well as white matter fiber tracts of clinical importance in the human brain.
image segmentation; harmonic analysis; subspace clustering; sparsity; affinity propagation; graph theory; diffusion magnetic resonance imaging (DMRI)
Hippocampal atrophy is observed with ageing and age-related neurodegenerative disease. Identification of the genetic correlates of hippocampal volume (HV) and atrophy may assist in elucidating the mechanisms of ageing and age-related neurodegeneration. Using two community cohorts of older Caucasians we estimated the heritability of HV and examined associations of HV with previously identified single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). In addition we undertook genome-association studies (GWAS) examining HV and HV atrophy. Participants were community-dwelling non-demented older adults from the longitudinal Sydney Memory and Ageing Study (Sydney MAS) (N = 498) and the Older Australian Twins Study (OATS) (N = 351) aged 65 and over. HV was measured using T1-weighted magnetic resonance images. Heritability of HV was estimated in OATS. Genome-wide genotyping was imputed using the 1K Genomes reference set. Associations with HV-candidate and Alzheimer’s disease (AD)-related SNPs were investigated. A GWAS examining HV (in both cohorts) and an exploratory GWAS of HV atrophy over two years (in Sydney MAS only) were also undertaken. HV heritability was estimated at 62–65%. The previously identified GWAS HV SNP (rs6581612) and the candidate BDNF SNP (rs6265) were nominally significant (p = 0.047 and p = 0.041 respectively). No AD-related SNPs, including the APOE ε4 polymorphism, were significant. No significant results were observed for either of the GWAS undertaken. Despite our estimate of a high heritability of HV, our results are consistent with a highly polygenic model suggesting that SNPs identified from prior studies, including GWAS meta-analyses, can be difficult to replicate in smaller samples of older adults.
Brain connectivity analyses are increasingly popular for investigating organization. Many connectivity measures including path lengths are generally defined as the number of nodes traversed to connect a node in a graph to the others. Despite its name, path length is purely topological, and does not take into account the physical length of the connections. The distance of the trajectory may also be highly relevant, but is typically overlooked in connectivity analyses. Here we combined genotyping, anatomical MRI and HARDI to understand how our genes influence the cortical connections, using whole-brain tractography. We defined a new measure, based on Dijkstra’s algorithm, to compute path lengths for tracts connecting pairs of cortical regions. We compiled these measures into matrices where elements represent the physical distance traveled along tracts. We then analyzed a large cohort of healthy twins and show that our path length measure is reliable, heritable, and influenced even in young adults by the Alzheimer’s risk gene, CLU.
Structural connectivity; neuroimaging genetics; Dijkstra’s algorithm; HARDI tractography; path length
The current study sought to examine the relative influence of genetic and environmental factors on corpus callosum (CC) microstructure in a community sample of older adult twins. Analyses were undertaken in 284 healthy older twins (66% female; 79 MZ and 63 DZ pairs) from the Older Australian Twins Study. The average age of the sample was 69.82 (SD = 4.76) years. Brain imaging scans were collected and DTI measures were estimated for the whole CC as well as its five subregions. Parcellation of the CC was performed using Analyze. In addition, white matter lesion (WMLs) burden was estimated. Heritability and genetic correlation analyses were undertaken using the SOLAR software package. Age, sex, scanner, handedness and blood pressure were considered as covariates. Heritability (h2) analysis for the DTI metrics of whole CC, indicated significant h2 for fractional anisotropy (FA) (h2 = 0.56; p = 2.89×10−10), mean diffusivity (MD) (h2 = 0.52; p = 0.30×10−6), radial diffusivity (RD) (h2 = 0.49; p = 0.2×10−6) and axial diffusivity (AD) (h2 = 0.37; p = 8.15×10−5). We also performed bivariate genetic correlation analyses between (i) whole CC DTI measures and (ii) whole CC DTI measures with total brain WML burden. Across the DTI measures for the whole CC, MD and RD shared 84% of the common genetic variance, followed by MD- AD (77%), FA - RD (52%), RD - AD (37%) and FA – MD (11%). For total WMLs, significant genetic correlations indicated that there was 19% shared common genetic variance with whole CC MD, followed by CC RD (17%), CC AD (16%) and CC FA (5%). Our findings suggest that the CC microstructure is under moderate genetic control. There was also evidence of shared genetic factors between the CC DTI measures. In contrast, there was less shared genetic variance between WMLs and the CC DTI metrics, suggesting fewer common genetic variants.
Accurate identification of white matter structures and segmentation of fibers into tracts is important in neuroimaging and has many potential applications. Even so, it is not trivial because whole brain tractography generates hundreds of thousands of streamlines that include many false positive fibers. We developed and tested an automatic tract labeling algorithm to segment anatomically meaningful tracts from diffusion weighted images. Our multi-atlas method incorporates information from multiple hand-labeled fiber tract atlases. In validations, we showed that the method outperformed the standard ROI-based labeling using a deformable, parcellated atlas. Finally, we show a high-throughput application of the method to genetic population studies. We use the sub-voxel diffusion information from fibers in the clustered tracts based on 105-gradient HARDI scans of 86 young normal twins. The whole workflow shows promise for larger population studies in the future.
HARDI; Tractography; Fiber Clustering; Label Fusion; Genetic Heritability
The NTRK3 gene (also known as TRKC) encodes a high affinity receptor for the neurotrophin 3′-nucleotidase (NT3), which is implicated in oligodendrocyte and myelin development. We previously found that white matter integrity in young adults related to genetic variants in genes encoding neurotrophins and their receptors. This underscores the importance of neurotrophins for white matter development. NTRK3 variants are putative risk factors for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder hoarding, suggesting that some NTRK3 variants may affect the brain.
To test this, we scanned 392 healthy adult twins and their siblings (mean age, 23.6 ± 2.2 years; range: 20-29 years) with 105-gradient 4-Tesla diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). We identified 18 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the NTRK3 gene that have been associated with neuropsychiatric disorders. We used a multi-SNP model, adjusting for family relatedness, age, and sex, to relate these variants to voxelwise fractional anisotropy (FA) – a DTI measure of white matter integrity.
FA was optimally predicted (based on the highest false discovery rate critical p), by five SNPs (rs1017412, rs2114252, rs16941261, rs3784406, and rs7176429; overall FDR critical p = 0.028). Gene effects were widespread and included the corpus callosum genu and inferior longitudinal fasciculus - regions implicated in several neuropsychiatric disorders and previously associated with other neurotrophin-related genetic variants in an overlapping sample of subjects. NTRK3 genetic variants, and neurotrophins more generally, may influence white matter integrity in brain regions implicated in neuropsychiatric disorders.
Fractional anisotropy; diffusion tensor imaging; single nucleotide polymorphism; schizophrenia; obsessive compulsive disorder; bipolar disorder
Diffusion imaging can map anatomical connectivity in the living brain, offering new insights into fundamental questions such as how the left and right brain hemispheres differ. Anatomical brain asymmetries are related to speech and language abilities, but less is known about left/right hemisphere differences in brain wiring. To assess this, we scanned 457 young adults (age 23.4±2.0 SD years) and 112 adolescents (age 12-16) with 4-Tesla 105-gradient high-angular resolution diffusion imaging. We extracted fiber tracts throughout the brain with a Hough transform method. A 70×70 connectivity matrix was created, for each subject, based on the proportion of fibers intersecting 70 cortical regions. We identified significant differences in the proportions of fibers intersecting left and right hemisphere cortical regions. The degree of asymmetry in the connectivity matrices varied with age, as did the asymmetry in network topology measures such as the small-world effect.
tractography; high angular resolution diffusion imaging (HARDI); small-world effect; connectome; laterality
The ENIGMA (Enhancing NeuroImaging Genetics through Meta-Analysis) Consortium was set up to analyze brain measures and genotypes from multiple sites across the world to improve the power to detect genetic variants that influence the brain. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) yields quantitative measures sensitive to brain development and degeneration, and some common genetic variants may be associated with white matter integrity or connectivity. DTI measures, such as the fractional anisotropy (FA) of water diffusion, may be useful for identifying genetic variants that influence brain microstructure. However, genome-wide association studies (GWAS) require large populations to obtain sufficient power to detect and replicate significant effects, motivating a multi-site consortium effort. As part of an ENIGMA–DTI working group, we analyzed high-resolution FA images from multiple imaging sites across North America, Australia, and Europe, to address the challenge of harmonizing imaging data collected at multiple sites. Four hundred images of healthy adults aged 18–85 from four sites were used to create a template and corresponding skeletonized FA image as a common reference space. Using twin and pedigree samples of different ethnicities, we used our common template to evaluate the heritability of tract-derived FA measures. We show that our template is reliable for integrating multiple datasets by combining results through meta-analysis and unifying the data through exploratory mega-analyses. Our results may help prioritize regions of the FA map that are consistently influenced by additive genetic factors for future genetic discovery studies. Protocols and templates are publicly available at (http://enigma.loni.ucla.edu/ongoing/dti-working-group/).
Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI); Imaging genetics; Heritability; Meta-analysis; Multi-site; Reliability
For women, choosing a facially masculine man as a mate is thought to confer genetic benefits to offspring. Crucial assumptions of this hypothesis have not been adequately tested. It has been assumed that variation in facial masculinity is due to genetic variation and that genetic factors that increase male facial masculinity do not increase facial masculinity in female relatives. We objectively quantified the facial masculinity in photos of identical (n = 411) and nonidentical (n = 782) twins and their siblings (n = 106). Using biometrical modeling, we found that much of the variation in male and female facial masculinity is genetic. However, we also found that masculinity of male faces is unrelated to their attractiveness and that facially masculine men tend to have facially masculine, less-attractive sisters. These findings challenge the idea that facially masculine men provide net genetic benefits to offspring and call into question this popular theoretical framework.
mate preference; sexual dimorphism; intralocus sexual conflict; evolution; immunocompetence-handicap principle; good genes; pathogen; health; sexually antagonistic selection; behavior genetics; evolutionary psychology; face perception; human mate selection
Genetic analysis of diffusion tensor images (DTI) shows great promise in revealing specific genetic variants that affect brain integrity and connectivity. Most genetic studies of DTI analyze voxel-based diffusivity indices in the image space (such as 3D maps of fractional anisotropy) and overlook tract geometry. Here we propose an automated workflow to cluster fibers using a white matter probabilistic atlas and perform genetic analysis on the shape characteristics of fiber tracts. We apply our approach to large study of 4-Tesla high angular resolution diffusion imaging (HARDI) data from 198 healthy, young adult twins (age: 20–30). Illustrative results show heritability for the shapes of several major tracts, as color-coded maps.
HARDI; Tractography; Image Registration; White Matter Probabilistic Atlas; Fiber Alignment; Clustering; Curve Matching; Heritability
Personality traits are complex phenotypes related to psychosomatic health. Individually, various gene finding methods have not achieved much success in finding genetic variants associated with personality traits. We performed a meta-analysis of four genome-wide linkage scans (N=6149 subjects) of five basic personality traits assessed with the NEO Five-Factor Inventory. We compared the significant regions from the meta-analysis of linkage scans with the results of a meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies (GWAS) (N∼17 000). We found significant evidence of linkage of neuroticism to chromosome 3p14 (rs1490265, LOD=4.67) and to chromosome 19q13 (rs628604, LOD=3.55); of extraversion to 14q32 (ATGG002, LOD=3.3); and of agreeableness to 3p25 (rs709160, LOD=3.67) and to two adjacent regions on chromosome 15, including 15q13 (rs970408, LOD=4.07) and 15q14 (rs1055356, LOD=3.52) in the individual scans. In the meta-analysis, we found strong evidence of linkage of extraversion to 4q34, 9q34, 10q24 and 11q22, openness to 2p25, 3q26, 9p21, 11q24, 15q26 and 19q13 and agreeableness to 4q34 and 19p13. Significant evidence of association in the GWAS was detected between openness and rs677035 at 11q24 (P-value=2.6 × 10−06, KCNJ1). The findings of our linkage meta-analysis and those of the GWAS suggest that 11q24 is a susceptible locus for openness, with KCNJ1 as the possible candidate gene.
personality; KCNJ1; NEO; linkage; GSMA
The SNP-SNP interactome has rarely been explored in the context of neuroimaging genetics mainly due to the complexity of conducting ∼1011 pairwise statistical tests. However, recent advances in machine learning, specifically the iterative sure independence screening (SIS) method, have enabled the analysis of datasets where the number of predictors is much larger than the number of observations. Using an implementation of the SIS algorithm (called EPISIS), we used exhaustive search of the genome-wide, SNP-SNP interactome to identify and prioritize SNPs for interaction analysis. We identified a significant SNP pair, rs1345203 and rs1213205, associated with temporal lobe volume. We further examined the full-brain, voxelwise effects of the interaction in the ADNI dataset and separately in an independent dataset of healthy twins (QTIM). We found that each additional loading in the epistatic effect was associated with ∼5% greater brain regional brain volume (a protective effect) in both the ADNI and QTIM samples.
epistasis; interaction; genome; sure independence; tensor-based morphometry
Delta opioid receptors are implicated in a variety of psychiatric and neurological disorders. These receptors play a key role in the reinforcing properties of drugs of abuse, and polymorphisms in OPRD1 (the gene encoding delta opioid receptors) are associated with drug addiction. Delta opioid receptors are also involved in protecting neurons against hypoxic and ischemic stress. Here, we first examined a large sample of 738 elderly participants with neuroimaging and genetic data from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative. We hypothesized that common variants in OPRD1 would be associated with differences in brain structure, particularly in regions relevant to addictive and neurodegenerative disorders. One very common variant (rs678849) predicted differences in regional brain volumes. We replicated the association of this single-nucleotide polymorphism with regional tissue volumes in a large sample of young participants in the Queensland Twin Imaging study. Although the same allele was associated with reduced volumes in both cohorts, the brain regions affected differed between the two samples. In healthy elderly, exploratory analyses suggested that the genotype associated with reduced brain volumes in both cohorts may also predict cerebrospinal fluid levels of neurodegenerative biomarkers, but this requires confirmation. If opiate receptor genetic variants are related to individual differences in brain structure, genotyping of these variants may be helpful when designing clinical trials targeting delta opioid receptors to treat neurological disorders.
neuroimaging; genetics; neurodegeneration; drug addiction; opiates
Deficits in lentiform nucleus volume and morphometry are implicated in a number of genetically influenced disorders, including Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, and ADHD. Here we performed genome-wide searches to discover common genetic variants associated with differences in lentiform nucleus volume in human populations. We assessed structural MRI scans of the brain in two large genotyped samples: the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI; N=706) and the Queensland Twin Imaging Study (QTIM; N=639). Statistics of association from each cohort were combined meta-analytically using a fixed-effects model to boost power and to reduce the prevalence of false positive findings. We identified a number of associations in and around the flavin-containing monooxygenase (FMO) gene cluster. The most highly associated SNP, rs1795240, was located in the FMO3 gene; after meta-analysis, it showed genome-wide significant evidence of association with lentiform nucleus volume (PMA=4.79×10−8). This commonly-carried genetic variant accounted for 2.68 % and 0.84 % of the trait variability in the ADNI and QTIM samples, respectively, even though the QTIM sample was on average 50 years younger. Pathway enrichment analysis revealed significant contributions of this gene to the cytochrome P450 pathway, which is involved in metabolizing numerous therapeutic drugs for pain, seizures, mania, depression, anxiety, and psychosis. The genetic variants we identified provide replicated, genome-wide significant evidence for the FMO gene cluster’s involvement in lentiform nucleus volume differences in human populations.
Basal ganglia; Genome-wide association study (GWAS); MRI; Replication; Morphometry; Drug metabolism
The human connectome has recently become a popular research topic in neuroscience, and many new algorithms have been applied to analyze brain networks. In particular, network topology measures from graph theory have been adapted to analyze network efficiency and ‘small-world’ properties. While there has been a surge in the number of papers examining connectivity through graph theory, questions remain about its test-retest reliability (TRT). In particular, the reproducibility of structural connectivity measures has not been assessed. We examined the TRT of global connectivity measures generated from graph theory analyses of 17 young adults who underwent two high-angular resolution diffusion (HARDI) scans approximately 3 months apart. Of the measures assessed, modularity had the highest TRT, and it was stable across a range of sparsities (a thresholding parameter used to define which network edges are retained). These reliability measures underline the need to develop network descriptors that are robust to acquisition parameters.
Imaging genetics aims to discover how variants in the human genome influence brain measures derived from images. Genome-wide association scans (GWAS) can screen the genome for common differences in our DNA that relate to brain measures. In small samples, GWAS has low power as individual gene effects are weak and one must also correct for multiple comparisons across the genome and the image. Here we extend recent work on genetic clustering of images, to analyze surface-based models of anatomy using GWAS. We performed spherical harmonic analysis of hippocampal surfaces, automatically extracted from brain MRI scans of 1254 subjects. We clustered hippocampal surface regions with common genetic influences by examining genetic correlations (rg) between the normalized deformation values at all pairs of surface points. Using genetic correlations to cluster surface measures, we were able to boost effect sizes for genetic associations, compared to clustering with traditional phenotypic correlations using Pearson's r.
heritability; GWAS; clustering; hippocampus; 3D surfaces; imaging genetics
Mega- or meta-analytic studies (e.g. genome-wide association studies) are increasingly used in behavior genetics. An issue in such studies is that phenotypes are often measured by different instruments across study cohorts, requiring harmonization of measures so that more powerful fixed effect meta-analyses can be employed. Within the Genetics of Personality Consortium, we demonstrate for two clinically relevant personality traits, Neuroticism and Extraversion, how Item-Response Theory (IRT) can be applied to map item data from different inventories to the same underlying constructs. Personality item data were analyzed in >160,000 individuals from 23 cohorts across Europe, USA and Australia in which Neuroticism and Extraversion were assessed by nine different personality inventories. Results showed that harmonization was very successful for most personality inventories and moderately successful for some. Neuroticism and Extraversion inventories were largely measurement invariant across cohorts, in particular when comparing cohorts from countries where the same language is spoken. The IRT-based scores for Neuroticism and Extraversion were heritable (48 and 49 %, respectively, based on a meta-analysis of six twin cohorts, total N = 29,496 and 29,501 twin pairs, respectively) with a significant part of the heritability due to non-additive genetic factors. For Extraversion, these genetic factors qualitatively differ across sexes. We showed that our IRT method can lead to a large increase in sample size and therefore statistical power. The IRT approach may be applied to any mega- or meta-analytic study in which item-based behavioral measures need to be harmonized.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s10519-014-9654-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Personality; Item-Response Theory; Measurement; Genome-wide association studies; Consortium; Meta-analysis
The insula, hidden deep within the Sylvian fissures, has proven difficult to study from a connectivity perspective. Most of our current information on the anatomical connectivity of the insula comes from studies of nonhuman primates and post mortem human dissections. To date, only two neuroimaging studies have successfully examined the connectivity of the insula. Here we examine how the connectivity of the insula develops between ages 12 and 30, in 307 young adolescent and adult subjects scanned with 4-Tesla high angular resolution diffusion imaging (HARDI). The density of fiber connections between the insula and the frontal and parietal cortex decreased with age, but the connection density between the insula and the temporal cortex generally increased with age. This trajectory is in line with well-known patterns of cortical development in these regions. In addition, males and females showed different developmental trajectories for the connection between the left insula and the left precentral gyrus. The insula plays many different roles, some of them affected in neuropsychiatric disorders; this information on the insula's connectivity may help efforts to elucidate mechanisms of brain disorders in which it is implicated.
insula; development; tractography; HARDI; structural connectivity
The ‘rich club’ coefficient describes a phenomenon where a network's hubs (high-degree nodes) are on average more intensely interconnected than lower-degree nodes. Networks with rich clubs often have an efficient, higher-order organization, but we do not yet know how the rich club emerges in the living brain, or how it changes as our brain networks develop. Here we chart the developmental trajectory of the rich club in anatomical brain networks from 438 subjects aged 12-30. Cortical networks were constructed from 68×68 connectivity matrices of fiber density, using whole-brain tractography in 4-Tesla 105-gradient high angular resolution diffusion images (HARDI). The adult and younger cohorts had rich clubs that included different nodes; the rich club effect intensified with age. Rich-club organization is a sign of a network's efficiency and robustness. These concepts and findings may be advantageous for studying brain maturation and abnormal brain development.
rich club coefficient; high angular resolution diffusion imaging (HARDI); tractography; network analyses; development; structural connectivity
Inter-individual variation in mean leukocyte telomere length (LTL) is associated with cancer and several age-associated diseases. Here, in a genome-wide meta-analysis of 37,684 individuals with replication of selected variants in a further 10,739 individuals, we identified seven loci, including five novel loci, associated with mean LTL (P<5x10−8). Five of the loci contain genes (TERC, TERT, NAF1, OBFC1, RTEL1) that are known to be involved in telomere biology. Lead SNPs at two loci (TERC and TERT) associate with several cancers and other diseases, including idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Moreover, a genetic risk score analysis combining lead variants at all seven loci in 22,233 coronary artery disease cases and 64,762 controls showed an association of the alleles associated with shorter LTL with increased risk of CAD (21% (95% CI: 5–35%) per standard deviation in LTL, p=0.014). Our findings support a causal role of telomere length variation in some age-related diseases.
Over the past several years, evidence has accumulated showing that the cerebellum plays a significant role in cognitive function. Here we show, in a large genetically informative twin sample (n = 430; aged 16–30 years), that the cerebellum is strongly, and reliably (n = 30 rescans), activated during an n-back working memory task, particularly lobules I–IV, VIIa Crus I and II, IX and the vermis. Monozygotic twin correlations for cerebellar activation were generally much larger than dizygotic twin correlations, consistent with genetic influences. Structural equation models showed that up to 65% of the variance in cerebellar activation during working memory is genetic (averaging 34% across significant voxels), most prominently in the lobules VI, and VIIa Crus I, with the remaining variance explained by unique/unshared environmental factors. Heritability estimates for brain activation in the cerebellum agree with those found for working memory activation in the cerebral cortex, even though cerebellar cyto-architecture differs substantially. Phenotypic correlations between BOLD percent signal change in cerebrum and cerebellum were low, and bivariate modeling indicated that genetic influences on the cerebellum are at least partly specific to the cerebellum. Activation on the voxel-level correlated very weakly with cerebellar gray matter volume, suggesting specific genetic influences on the BOLD signal. Heritable signals identified here should facilitate discovery of genetic polymorphisms influencing cerebellar function through genome-wide association studies, to elucidate the genetic liability to brain disorders affecting the cerebellum.
Cerebellum; Heritability; Genetics; Functional MRI; Working memory; Twin study
The Enhancing NeuroImaging Genetics through Meta-Analysis (ENIGMA) Consortium is a collaborative network of researchers working together on a range of large-scale studies that integrate data from 70 institutions worldwide. Organized into Working Groups that tackle questions in neuroscience, genetics, and medicine, ENIGMA studies have analyzed neuroimaging data from over 12,826 subjects. In addition, data from 12,171 individuals were provided by the CHARGE consortium for replication of findings, in a total of 24,997 subjects. By meta-analyzing results from many sites, ENIGMA has detected factors that affect the brain that no individual site could detect on its own, and that require larger numbers of subjects than any individual neuroimaging study has currently collected. ENIGMA’s first project was a genome-wide association study identifying common variants in the genome associated with hippocampal volume or intracranial volume. Continuing work is exploring genetic associations with subcortical volumes (ENIGMA2) and white matter microstructure (ENIGMA-DTI). Working groups also focus on understanding how schizophrenia, bipolar illness, major depression and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affect the brain. We review the current progress of the ENIGMA Consortium, along with challenges and unexpected discoveries made on the way.
Genetics; MRI; GWAS; Consortium; Meta-analysis; Multi-site
Understanding how the brain matures in healthy individuals is critical for evaluating deviations from normal development in psychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders. The brain’s anatomical networks are profoundly re-modeled between childhood and adulthood, and diffusion tractography offers unprecedented power to reconstruct these networks and neural pathways in vivo. Here we tracked changes in structural connectivity and network efficiency in 439 right-handed individuals aged 12 to 30 (211 female/126 male adults, mean age=23.6, SD=2.19; 31 female/24 male 12 year olds, mean age=12.3, SD=0.18; and 25 female/22 male 16 year olds, mean age=16.2, SD=0.37). All participants were scanned with high angular resolution diffusion imaging (HARDI) at 4 Tesla. After we performed whole brain tractography, 70 cortical gyral-based regions of interest were extracted from each participant’s co-registered anatomical scans. The degree of fiber connections between all pairs of cortical regions, or nodes, were found to create symmetric fiber density matrices, reflecting the structural brain network. From those 70×70 matrices we computed graph theory metrics characterizing structural connectivity. Several key global and nodal metrics changed across development, showing increased network integration, with some connections pruned and others strengthened. The increases and decreases in fiber density, however, were not distributed proportionally across the brain. The frontal cortex had a disproportionate number of decreases in fiber density while the temporal cortex had a disproportionate number of increases in fiber density. This large-scale analysis of the developing structural connectome offers a foundation to develop statistical criteria for aberrant brain connectivity as the human brain matures.
HARDI; structural connectivity; graph theory; development