While HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND) remain prevalent despite combination antiretroviral therapy (CART), the clinical relevance of asymptomatic neurocognitive impairment (ANI), the most common HAND diagnosis, remains unclear. We investigated whether HIV-infected persons with ANI were more likely than those who were neurocognitively normal (NCN) to experience a decline in everyday functioning (symptomatic decline).
A total of 347 human participants from the CNS HIV Anti-Retroviral Therapy Effects Research (CHARTER) cohort were NCN (n = 226) or had ANI (n = 121) at baseline. Neurocognitive assessments occurred approximately every 6 months, with median (interquartile range) follow-up of 45.2 (28.7–63.7) months. Symptomatic decline was based on self-report (SR) or objective, performance-based (PB) problems in everyday functioning. Proportional hazards modeling was used to generate risk ratios for progression to symptomatic HAND after adjusting for baseline and time-dependent covariates, including CD4+ T-lymphocyte count (CD4), virologic suppression, CART, and mood.
The ANI group had a shorter time to symptomatic HAND than the NCN after adjusting for baseline predictors: adjusted risk ratios for symptomatic HAND were 2.0 (confidence interval [CI] 1.1–3.6; p = 0.02) for SR, 5.8 (CI 3.2–10.7; p < 0.0001) for PB, and 3.2 (CI 2.0–5.0; p < 0.0001) for either SR or PB. Current CD4 and depression were significant time-dependent covariates, but antiretroviral regimen, virologic suppression, and substance abuse or dependence were not.
This longitudinal study demonstrates that ANI conveys a 2-fold to 6-fold increase in risk for earlier development of symptomatic HAND, supporting the prognostic value of the ANI diagnosis in clinical settings. Identifying those at highest risk for symptomatic decline may offer an opportunity to modify treatment to delay progression.
Despite modern antiretroviral therapy, HIV-associated sensory neuropathy affects over 50% of HIV patients. The clinical expression of HIV neuropathy is highly variable: many individuals report few symptoms, but about half report distal neuropathic pain (DNP), making it one of the most prevalent, disabling and treatment-resistant complications of HIV disease. The presence and intensity of pain is not fully explained by the degree of peripheral nerve damage, making it unclear why some patients do, and others do not, report pain. To better understand central nervous system contributions to HIV DNP, we performed a cross-sectional analysis of structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) volumes in 241 HIV-infected participants from an observational multi-site cohort study at five US sites (CNS HIV Antiretroviral Treatment Effects Research Study, CHARTER). The association between DNP and the structural imaging outcomes was investigated using both linear and nonlinear (Gaussian Kernel support vector) multivariable regression, controlling for key demographic and clinical variables. Severity of DNP symptoms was correlated with smaller total cerebral cortical gray matter volume (R = −0.24; p = 0.004). Understanding the mechanisms for this association between smaller total cortical volumes and DNP may provide insight into HIV DNP chronicity and treatment-resistance.
HIV Distal Neuropathic Pain; Structural MRI; Cortical Volume
To determine (1) whether age-standardized cognitive declines and brain morphometric change differ between Young-Old (YOAD) and Very-Old (VOAD) patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and (2) whether apolipoprotein E (APOE) genotype modifies these neuropsychological and morphometric changes.
Baseline and 12-month follow up neuropsychological and morphometric measures were examined for healthy control and AD individuals. The two AD groups were further divided into subgroups on the basis of the presence of at least one APOE ε4 allele.
The YOAD showed more severe deficits andsteeper declines in cognition than the VOAD. Moreover, the presence of an APOE ε4 allele had a more deleterious effect on the YOAD than the VOAD on cognition and brain structure both cross-sectionally and longitudinally.
Results underscore the importance of integrating an individual’s age and genetic susceptibility—and their interaction—when examining neuropsychological and neuroimaging changes in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease; APOE genotype; cognition; morphometry; MRI; longitudinal
Aging and HIV are both risk factors for memory deficits and declines in real-world functioning. However, we know little about the profile of memory deficits driving instrumental activities of daily living (IADL) declines across the lifespan in HIV. This study examined 145 younger (<50 years) and 119 older (≥50 years) adults with HIV who completed the California Verbal Learning Test-Second Edition (CVLT-II), the Wechsler Memory Scale-Third Edition Logical Memory subtest (WMS-III LM), and a modified Lawton and Brody ADL questionnaire. No memory predictors of IADL dependence emerged in the younger cohort. In the older group, IADL dependence was uniquely associated with worse performance on all primary CVLT-II variables, as well as elevated recency effects. Poorer immediate and delayed recall of the WMS-III LM was also associated with IADL dependence, although recognition was intact. Findings suggest older HIV-infected adults with shallow encoding and forgetting are at risk for IADL dependence.
Aging; Disability; Everyday functioning; Learning and memory
Apathy is a relatively common psychiatric syndrome in HIV infection, but little is known about its neural correlates. In the present study, we examined the associations between apathy and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) indices in key frontal white matter regions in the thalamocorticostriatal circuit that has been implicated in the expression of apathy. Nineteen participants with HIV infection and 19 demographically comparable seronegative comparison subjects completed the Apathy subscale of the Frontal Systems Behavioral Scale as a part of a comprehensive neuropsychiatric research evaluation. When compared to the seronegative participants, the HIV+ group had significantly more frontal white matter abnormalities. Within HIV+ persons, and as predicted, higher ratings of apathy were associated with greater white matter alterations in the anterior corona radiata, genu, and orbital medial prefrontal cortex. The associations between white matter alterations and apathy were independent of depression and were stronger among participants with lower current CD4 counts. All told, these findings indicate that apathy is independently associated with white matter abnormalities in anterior, medial brain regions in persons infected with HIV, particularly in the setting of lower current immune functioning, which may have implications for antiretroviral therapy.
Diffusion tensor imaging; apathy; HIV/AIDS; Prefrontal cortex; depression
We examined network properties of genetic covariance between average cortical thickness (CT) and surface area (SA) within genetically-identified cortical parcellations that we previously derived from human cortical genetic maps using vertex-wise fuzzy clustering analysis with high spatial resolution. There were 24 hierarchical parcellations based on vertex-wise CT and 24 based on vertex-wise SA expansion/contraction; in both cases the 12 parcellations per hemisphere were largely symmetrical. We utilized three techniques—biometrical genetic modeling, cluster analysis, and graph theory—to examine genetic relationships and network properties within and between the 48 parcellation measures. Biometrical modeling indicated significant shared genetic covariance between size of several of the genetic parcellations. Cluster analysis suggested small distinct groupings of genetic covariance; networks highlighted several significant negative and positive genetic correlations between bilateral parcellations. Graph theoretical analysis suggested that small world, but not rich club, network properties may characterize the genetic relationships between these regional size measures. These findings suggest that cortical genetic parcellations exhibit short characteristic path lengths across a broad network of connections. This property may be protective against network failure. In contrast, previous research with structural data has observed strong rich club properties with tightly interconnected hub networks. Future studies of these genetic networks might provide powerful phenotypes for genetic studies of normal and pathological brain development, aging, and function.
imaging; genetic; twin; cortical thickness; surface area; network; small world; structural
Adults recovered from anorexia nervosa (AN) have altered reward modulation within striatal limbic regions associated with the emotional significance of stimuli, and executive regions concerned with planning and consequences. We hypothesized that adolescents with AN would show similar disturbed reward modulation within the striatum and the anterior cingulate cortex, a region connected to the striatum and involved in reward-guided action selection. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, twenty-two adolescent females (10 restricting-type AN, 12 healthy volunteers) performed a monetary guessing task. Time series data associated with monetary wins and losses within striatal and cingulate regions of interest were subjected to a linear mixed effects analysis. All participants responded more strongly to wins versus losses in limbic and anterior executive striatal territories. However, AN participants exhibited an exaggerated response to losses compared to wins in posterior executive and sensorimotor striatal regions, suggesting altered function in circuitry responsible for coding the affective context of stimuli and action selection based upon these valuations. As AN individuals are particularly sensitive to criticism, failure, and making mistakes, these findings may reflect the neural processes responsible for a bias in those with AN to exaggerate negative consequences.
Anorexia Nervosa; functional magnetic resonance imaging; reward; striatum; cingulate
A recent study of ill individuals with anorexia nervosa (AN) reported microstructural alterations in white matter integrity including lower fractional anisotropy and higher mean diffusivity. The present study was designed to determine whether such alterations exist in longterm recovered AN individuals and to examine potential associations with underlying AN traits.
Twelve adult women recovered from restricting-type AN and 10 control women were studied using diffusion tensor imaging.
Overall, there was no significant fractional anisotropy alteration in recovered AN, in contrast to a prior study reporting lower fractional anisotropy in ill AN. Further, recovered AN showed lower mean diffusivity in frontal, parietal and cingulum white matter relative to control women, contrary to elevated mean diffusivity previously reported in ill AN. Lower longitudinal diffusivity in recovered AN was associated with higher harm avoidance. However, more severe illness history was associated with worse white matter integrity after recovery in the same direction as reported in prior work.
Our findings suggest that fractional anisotropy in recovered AN is not different from controls, however, a novel pattern of lower mean diffusivity was evidenced in recovered AN, and this alteration was associated with harm avoidance. Notably, severity of illness history may have long-term consequences, emphasizing the importance of aggressive treatment.
eating disorders; anorexia nervosa; white matter; diffusion tensor imaging; harm avoidance; anxiety
MRI alterations in the cerebral white (WM) and gray matter (GM) are common in HIV infection, even during successful combination antiretroviral therapy (CART), and their pathophysiology and clinical significance are unclear. We evaluated the association of these alterations with recovery of CD4+ T-cells. Seventy-five HIV-infected (HIV+) volunteers in the CNS HIV Anti-Retroviral Therapy Effects Research (CHARTER) study underwent brain MRI at two visits. Multi-channel morphometry yielded volumes of total cerebral WM, abnormal WM, cortical and subcortical GM, and ventricular and sulcal CSF. Multivariable linear regressions were used to predict volumetric changes with change in current CD4 and detectable HIV RNA. On average, the cohort (79% initially on CART) demonstrated loss of total cerebral WM alongside increases in abnormal WM and ventricular volumes. A greater extent of CD4 recovery was associated with increases in abnormal WM and subcortical GM volumes. Virologic suppression was associated with increased subcortical GM volume, independent of CD4 recovery. These findings suggest a possible link between brain alterations and immune recovery, distinct from the influence of virologic suppression. The association of increasing abnormal WM and subcortical GM volumes with CD4+ T-cell recovery suggests that neuroinflammation may be one mechanism in CNS pathogenesis.
Antiretroviral therapy; brain; CD4+ T-cell; immune recovery/reconstitution; inflammation; MRI
Although glucocorticoid receptors are highly expressed in the prefrontal cortex, the hippocampus remains the predominant focus in the literature examining relationships between cortisol and brain. We examined phenotypic and genetic associations of cortisol levels with the thickness of prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortex regions, and with hippocampal volume in a sample of 388 middle-aged male twins who were 51–59 years old. Small but significant negative phenotypic associations were found between cortisol levels and the thickness of left dorsolateral (superior frontal gyrus, left rostral middle frontal gyrus) and ventrolateral (pars opercularis, pars triangularis, pars orbitalis) prefrontal regions, and right dorsolateral (superior frontal gyrus) and medial orbital frontal cortex. Most of the associations remained significant after adjusting for general cognitive ability, cardiovascular risk factors, and depression. Bivariate genetic analyses suggested that some of the associations were primarily accounted for by shared genetic influences; that is, some of the genes that tend to result in increased cortisol levels also tend to result in reduced prefrontal cortical thickness. Aging has been associated with reduced efficiency of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal function, with frontal lobe shrinkage, and with increases in health problems, but our present data do not allow us to determine the direction of effects. Moreover, the degree or the direction of the observed associations and the extent of their shared genetic underpinnings may well change as these individuals age. Longitudinal assessments are underway to elucidate the direction of the associations and the genetic underpinnings of longitudinal phenotypes for changes in cortisol and brain morphology.
heritability; magnetic resonance imaging (MRI); hippocampus; HPA axis structure; genetic correlation
Cognitive reserve is hypothesized to help people withstand greater brain pathology without manifesting clinical symptoms, and may be regarded as a preventive factor of dementia. It is unclear whether the effect of cognitive reserve is evident only among the older adults or after conversion to dementia, or if it can also be seen earlier in life before the prominent effects of cognitive aging become apparent. While finding a main effect of cognitive reserve on cognitive outcome may be consistent with the reserve hypothesis, in our view, it is unnecessary to invoke the idea of reserve if only a main effect is present. Rather, it is the interaction between a measure of reserve and a brain measure on cognitive outcome that is key for confirming that the effects of brain pathology affect people differently according to their cognitive reserve. We studied whether general cognitive ability at an average age of 20 years, as a direct measure of cognitive reserve, moderates the association between hippocampal volume and episodic memory performance in 494 middle-aged men ages 51 to 60. Whereas there was no statistically significant direct relationship between hippocampal volume and episodic memory performance in middle age, we found a statistically significant interaction such that there was a positive association between hippocampal volume and episodic memory only among people with lower general cognitive ability at age 20, i.e., lower levels of cognitive reserve. Our results provide support for the hypothesis that cognitive reserve moderates the relationship between brain structure and cognition in middle age, well before the onset of dementia.
cognitive reserve; general cognitive ability; episodic memory; hippocampus; verbal learning
Etravirine has high affinity for plasma drug-binding proteins, such as albumin and α1-acid glycoprotein, which limits the amount of unbound etravirine available to enter the CNS. The objective of this study was to compare total and unbound etravirine concentrations in CSF with plasma concentrations and the in vitro median inhibitory concentration (IC50) for wild-type HIV (0.9 ng/mL).
Total and bound etravirine concentrations were measured in 17 CSF and plasma pairs by isotope-dilution liquid chromatography tandem mass spectroscopy, radioligand displacement and ultracentrifugation. Unbound etravirine concentrations were calculated from the bound fraction. The dynamic range of the assay was 7.8–2000 (plasma) and 0.78–200 (CSF) ng/mL.
Subjects were mostly middle-aged (median 43 years) white (78%) men (89%). All CSF etravirine concentrations were above the limit of quantification. Total and unbound median etravirine concentrations in CSF were 9.5 (IQR 6.4, 26.4) and 0.13 (IQR 0.08, 0.27) ng/mL, respectively. Etravirine was 96% (IQR 94.5, 97.2) protein bound in plasma and 98.4% (IQR 97.8, 98.8) in CSF. Total etravirine in CSF was 4.3% (IQR 3, 5.9) of total and 101% (IQR 76, 160) of unbound etravirine in plasma. There were no significant correlations between unbound etravirine concentrations and concentrations of albumin in plasma or CSF. Unbound etravirine concentrations in CSF did not reach the wild-type IC50 in any of the specimens.
Unbound etravirine may not achieve optimal concentrations to inhibit HIV replication in the CNS.
HIV; antiretroviral therapy; central nervous system; CNS; protein binding; CSF
Right–left regional cerebral differences are a feature of the human brain linked to functional abilities, aging, and neuro-developmental and mental disorders. The role of genetic factors in structural asymmetry has been incompletely studied. We analyzed data from 515 individuals (130 monozygotic twin pairs, 97 dizygotic pairs, and 61 unpaired twins) from the Vietnam Era Twin Study of Aging to answer three questions about genetic determinants of brain structural asymmetry: First, does the magnitude of heritability differ for homologous regions in each hemisphere? Despite adequate power to detect regional differences, heritability estimates were not significantly larger in one hemisphere versus the other, except left > right inferior lateral ventricle heritability. Second, do different genetic factors influence left and right hemisphere size in homologous regions? Inter-hemispheric genetic correlations were high and significant; in only two subcortical regions (pallidum and accumbens) did the estimate statistically differ from 1.0. Thus, there was little evidence for different genetic influences on left and right hemisphere regions. Third, to what extent do genetic factors influence variability in left–right size differences? There was no evidence that variation in asymmetry (i.e., the size difference) of left and right homologous regions was genetically determined, except in pallidum and accumbens. Our findings suggest that genetic factors do not play a significant role in determining individual variation in the degree of regional cortical size asymmetries measured with MRI, although they may do so for volume of some subcortical structures. Despite varying interpretations of existing left–right, we view the present results as consistent with previous findings.
Individuals with anorexia nervosa (AN) are often cognitively rigid and behaviorally over-controlled. We previously showed that adult females recovered from AN relative to healthy comparison females had less prefrontal activation during an inhibition task, which suggested a functional brain correlate of altered inhibitory processing in individuals recovered from AN. However, the degree to which these functional brain alterations are related to disease state and whether error processing is altered in AN individuals is unknown.
In the current study, ill adolescent AN females (n = 11) and matched healthy comparison adolescents (CA) with no history of an eating disorder (n = 12) performed a validated stop signal task (SST) during functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to explore differences in error and inhibitory processing. The groups did not differ on sociodemographic variables or on SST performance. During inhibitory processing, a significant group x difficulty (hard, easy) interaction was detected in the right dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), right middle frontal gyrus (MFG), and left posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), which was characterized by less activation in AN compared to CA participants during hard trials. During error processing, a significant group x accuracy (successful inhibit, failed inhibit) interaction in bilateral MFG and right PCC was observed, which was characterized by less activation in AN compared to CA participants during error (i.e., failed inhibit) trials.
Consistent with our prior findings in recovered AN, ill AN adolescents, relative to CA, showed less inhibition-related activation within the dorsal ACC, MFG and PCC as inhibitory demand increased. In addition, ill AN adolescents, relative to CA, also showed reduced activation to errors in the bilateral MFG and left PCC. These findings suggest that altered prefrontal and cingulate activation during inhibitory and error processing may represent a behavioral characteristic in AN that is independent of the state of recovery.
Education may reduce risk of dementia through passive reserve, by increasing neural substrate. We tested the hypotheses that education is associated with thicker cortex and reduced rates of atrophy in brain regions related to literacy and intellectual ability. Healthy older adults and those with mild cognitive impairment were categorized into High (≥18 yrs) and Low (≤13 yrs) education groups. Higher education was associated with thinner cortices in several areas, but one-year atrophy rates in these areas did not differ by education group. These results do not support a passive reserve model in which early life education protects against dementia by increasing cortical thickness. Connectivity and synaptic efficiency, or other lifestyle factors may more directly reflect cognitive reserve.
Brain reserve; cortical thickness; education; hippocampal volume; literacy; Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI); aging
Despite the widening use of combination anti-retroviral therapy (ART), neurocognitive impairment remains common among HIV-infected (HIV+) individuals. Associations between HIV-related neuromedical variables and magnetic resonance imaging indices of brain structural integrity may provide insight into the neural bases for these symptoms. A diverse HIV+ sample (n=251) was studied through the CNS HIV Antiretroviral Therapy Effects Research initiative. Multi-channel image analysis produced volumes of ventricular and sulcal cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), cortical and subcortical gray matter, total cerebral white matter, and abnormal white matter. Cross-sectional analyses employed a series of multiple linear regressions to model each structural volume as a function of severity of prior immunosuppression (CD4 nadir), current CD4 count, presence of detectable CSF HIV RNA, and presence of HCV antibodies; secondary analyses examined plasma HIV RNA, estimated duration of HIV infection, and cumulative exposure to ART. Lower CD4 nadir was related to most measures of the structural brain damage. Higher current CD4, unexpectedly, correlated with lower white and subcortical gray and increased CSF. Detectable CSF HIV RNA was related to less total white matter. HCV coinfection was associated with more abnormal white matter. Longer exposure to ART was associated with lower white matter and higher sulcal CSF. HIV neuromedical factors, including lower nadir, higher current CD4 levels, and detectable HIV RNA, were associated with white matter damage and variability in subcortical volumes. Brain structural integrity in HIV likely reflects dynamic effects of current immune status and HIV replication, superimposed on residual effects associated with severe prior immunosuppression.
HIV; MRI; Neuroimaging; Immunospupression
Self-esteem and well-being are important for successful aging, and some evidence suggests that self-esteem and well-being are associated with hippocampal volume, cognition, and stress responsivity. Whereas most of this evidence is based on studies of older adults, we investigated self-esteem, well-being and hippocampal volume in 474 male middle-age twins. Self-esteem was significantly positively correlated with hippocampal volume (.09, p=.03 for left hippocampus, .10, p=.04 for right). Correlations for well-being were not significant (ps ≫.05). There were strong phenotypic correlations between self-esteem and well-being (.72, p<.001) and between left and right hippocampal volume (.72, p<.001). In multivariate genetic analyses, a 2-factor AE model with well-being and self-esteem on one factor and left and right hippocampal volumes on the other factor fit the data better than Cholesky, independent pathway or common pathway models. The correlation between the two genetic factors was .12 (p=.03); the correlation between the environmental factors was .09 (p>05). Our results indicate that largely different genetic and environmental factors underlie self-esteem and well-being on the one hand and hippocampal volume on the other.
self-esteem; well-being; hippocampus; twins; heritability; aging
Surface area of the cerebral cortex is a highly heritable trait, yet little is known about genetic influences on regional cortical differentiation in humans. Using a data-driven, fuzzy clustering technique with magnetic resonance imaging data from 406 twins, we parceled cortical surface area into genetic subdivisions, creating a human brain atlas based solely on genetically informative data. Boundaries of the genetic divisions corresponded largely to meaningful structural and functional regions; however, the divisions represented previously undescribed phenotypes different from conventional (non–genetically based) parcellation systems. The genetic organization of cortical area was hierarchical, modular, and predominantly bilaterally symmetric across hemispheres. We also found that the results were consistent with human-specific regions being subdivisions of previously described, genetically based lobar regionalization patterns.
Methamphetamine (METH) dependence is frequently comorbid with HIV infection and both have been linked to alterations of brain structure and function. In a previous study, we showed that the brain volume loss characteristic of HIV infection contrasts with METH-related volume increases in striatum and parietal cortex, suggesting distinct neurobiological responses to HIV and METH (Jernigan et al., 2005). fMRI has the potential to reveal functional interactions between the effects of HIV and METH. In the present study, 50 participants were studied in four groups: an HIV+ group, a recently METH dependent group, a dually affected group, and a group of unaffected community comparison subjects. An fMRI paradigm consisting of motor sequencing tasks of varying levels of complexity was administered to examine blood oxygenation level dependent (BOLD) changes. Within all groups, activity increased significantly with increasing task complexity in large clusters within sensorimotor and parietal cortex, basal ganglia, cerebellum, and cingulate. The task complexity effect was regressed on HIV status, METH status, and the HIVxMETH interaction term in a simultaneous multiple regression. HIV was associated with less complexity-related activation in striatum, whereas METH was associated with less complexity-related activation in parietal regions. Significant interaction effects were observed in both cortical and subcortical regions; and, contrary to expectations, the complexity-related activation was less aberrant in dually-affected than in single-risk participants, in spite of comparable levels of neurocognitive impairment among the clinical groups. Thus, HIV and METH dependence, perhaps through their effects on dopaminergic systems, may have opposing functional effects on neural circuits involved in motor programming.
FMRI; neuroimaging; dopamine; drug abuse
The estimation of cortical thickness is in part dependent on the degree of contrast in T1 signal intensity between white matter and gray matter along the cortical mantle. The ratio of white matter to gray matter signal (WM/GM contrast) has been found to vary as a function of age and Alzheimer’s disease status, suggesting a biological component to what might otherwise be labeled as a nuisance variable. The aim of the present study was to determine if measures of WM/GM contrast are genetically influenced, as well as the degree to which this phenotype may be related to the genetic and environmental determinants of cortical thickness. Participants were 514 male twins (130 monozygotic, 97 dizygotic pairs, and 60 unpaired individuals) from the Vietnam Era Twin Study of Aging. Ages ranged from 51 to 59 years. Measures of WM/GM contrast and cortical thickness were derived for 66 cortical regions of interest (ROI) using FreeSurfer-based methods. Univariate and bivariate twin analyses were used in order to estimate the heritability of WM/GM contrast, as well as the degree of shared genetic and environmental variance between WM/GM contrast and cortical thickness. WM/GM contrast was found to be significantly heritable in the majority of ROIs. The average heritability across individual ROIs was highest in the occipital lobe (.50), and lowest in the cingulate cortex (.24). Significant phenotypic correlations between WM/GM contrast and cortical thickness were observed for most of the ROIs. The majority of the phenotypic correlations were negative, ranging from −.11 to −.54. Of the 66 associations, only 17 significant genetic correlations were found, ranging from −.16 to −.34, indicating small amounts of shared genetic variance. The majority of the phenotypic correlations were accounted for by small unique environmental effects common between WM/GM contrast and cortical thickness. These findings demonstrate that like cortical thickness, WM/GM contrast is a genetically influenced brain structure phenotype. The lack of significant genetic correlations with cortical thickness suggests that this measure potentially represents a unique source of genetic variance, one that has yet to be explored by the field of imaging genetics.
The neuropathogenesis of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) may manifest as various neurocognitive impairments (NCI). HIV-positive individuals also have significantly shorter telomere length (TL) in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and CD8+ T cells compared to HIV-negative individuals. Additionally, reduced TL has been found to be associated with chronic psychological stress. This study focused on the effects of HIV-infection and chronic stress associated with childhood trauma on telomere length, and investigated whether leukocyte TL (LTL), in particular, represents a risk factor for NCI. Eighty-three HIV-positive and 45 HIV-negative women were assessed for childhood trauma and were subjected to detailed neurocognitive testing. Blood from each participant was used to extract Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). Relative LTL were determined by performing real time quantitative PCR reactions as described by Cawthon et al. (2002). As expected, relative LTL in the HIV-positive individuals was significantly shorter than that of HIV-negative individuals (F = 51.56, p = <0.01). Notably, a significant positive correlation was evident between relative LTL and learning performance in the HIV-positive group. In addition, a significant negative correlation was observed between relative LTL and verbal fluency, but this association was only evident in HIV-positive individuals who had experienced trauma. Our results suggest that reduced LTL is associated with worse learning performance in HIV-positive individuals, indicating that TL could act as a susceptibility factor in increasing neurocognitive decline in HIV-infected individuals.
We investigated the relationship between regional atrophy rates and 2-year cognitive decline in a large cohort of patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI; N=103) and healthy controls (N=90). Longitudinal MRIs were analyzed using high-throughput image analysis procedures. Atrophy rates were derived by calculating percent cortical volume loss between baseline and 24-month scans. Step-wise regressions were performed to investigate the contribution of atrophy rates to language, memory, and executive functioning decline, controlling for age, gender, baseline performances, and disease progression. In MCI, left temporal lobe atrophy rates were associated with naming decline, whereas bilateral temporal, left frontal, and left anterior cingulate atrophy rates were associated with semantic fluency decline. Left entorhinal atrophy rate was associated with memory decline and bilateral frontal atrophy rates were associated with executive function decline. These data provide evidence that regional atrophy rates in MCI contribute to domain-specific cognitive decline, which appears to be partially independent of disease progression. MRI measures of regional atrophy can provide valuable information for understanding the neural basis of cognitive impairment in MCI.
cortical thinning; cognitive deficits; naming; semantic fluency; verbal memory; executive dysfunction
Understanding the genetic and environmental contributions to measures of brain structure such as surface area and cortical thickness is important for a better understanding of the nature of brain-behavior relationships and changes due to development or disease. Continuous spatial maps of genetic influences on these structural features can contribute to our understanding of regional patterns of heritability, since it remains to be seen whether genetic contributions to brain structure respect the boundaries of any traditional parcellation approaches. Using data from magnetic resonance imaging scans collected on a large sample of monozygotic and dizygotic twins in the Vietnam Era Twin Study of Aging, we created maps of the heritability of areal expansion (a vertex-based area measure) and cortical thickness and examined the degree to which these maps were affected by adjustment for total surface area and mean cortical thickness. We also compared the approach of estimating regional heritability based on the average heritability of vertices within the region to the more traditional region-of-interest (ROI)-based approach. The results suggested high heritability across the cortex for areal expansion and, to a slightly lesser degree, for cortical thickness. There was a great deal of genetic overlap between global and regional measures for surface area, so maps of region-specific genetic influences on surface area revealed more modest heritabilities. There was greater inter-regional variability in heritabilities when calculated using the traditional ROI-based approach compared to summarizing vertex-by-vertex heritabilities within regions. Discrepancies between the approaches were greatest in small regions and tended to be larger for surface area than for cortical thickness measures. Implications regarding brain phenotypes for future genetic association studies are discussed.
surface area; cortical thickness; region of interest; heritability maps
The hippocampus expresses a large number of androgen receptors; therefore, in men it is potentially vulnerable to the gradual age-related decline of testosterone levels. In the present study we sought to elucidate the nature of the relationship between testosterone and hippocampal volume in a sample of middle-aged male twins (average age 55.8 years). We found no evidence for a correlation between testosterone level and hippocampal volume, as well as no indication of shared genetic influences. However, a significant moderating effect of testosterone on the genetic and environmental determinants of hippocampal volume was observed. Genetic influences on hippocampal volume increased substantially as a function of increasing testosterone level, while environmental influences either decreased or remained stable. These findings provide evidence for an apparent gene-by-hormone interaction on hippocampal volume. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to demonstrate that the heritability of a brain structure in adults may be modified by an endogenous biological factor.
Heritability; Hippocampal Volume; Testosterone; Twin Study; Aging
Twin studies generally show great consistency for the heritability of brain structures. Ironically, the lateral ventricles—perhaps the most reliably measured brain regions of interest—are the most inconsistent when it comes to estimating genetic influences on their volume. Heritability estimates in twin studies have ranged from zero to almost 0.80. Here we aggregate heritability estimates from extant twin studies, and we review and re-interpret some of the findings. Based on our revised estimates, we conclude that lateral ventricular volume is indeed heritable. The weighted average heritability of the revised estimates was 0.54. Although accumulated environmental insults might seem most logical as the predominant cause of age-related ventricular expansion, the data strongly suggest that genetic influences on lateral ventricular volume are increasing with age. Genetic influences accounted for 32-35% of the variance in lateral ventricular volume in childhood, but about 75% of the variance in late middle and older age. These conclusions have implications for the basic understanding of the genetic and environmental underpinnings of normative and pathological brain aging.
lateral ventricles; genetics; aging; structural MRI; twins; endophenotype; mild cognitive impairment; Alzheimer’s disease