News and Commentary Archive

Explore recent scientific discoveries and news as well as CLBB events, commentary, and press.

Mission

The speed of technology in neuroscience as it impacts ethical and just decisions in the legal system needs to be understood by lawyers, judges, public policy makers, and the general public. The Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Law, Brain, and Behavior is an academic and professional resource for the education, research, and understanding of neuroscience and the law. Read more

Genome-Wide Association Studies of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in 2 Cohorts of US Army Soldiers

By Murray B. Stein, Chia-Yen Chen, Robert J. Ursano, Tianxi Cai, Joel Gelernter, Steven G. Heeringa, Sonia Jain, Kevin P. Jensen, Adam X. Maihofer, Colter Mitchell, Caroline M. Nievergelt, Matthew K. Nock, Benjamin M. Neale, Renato Polimanti, Stephan Ripke, Xiaoying Sun, Michael L. Thomas, Qian Wang, Erin B. Ware, Susan Borja, Ronald C. Kessler, and Jordan W. Smoller | JAMA Psychiatry | May 11, 2016

Abstract:

Importance —  Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a prevalent, serious public health concern, particularly in the military. The identification of genetic risk factors for PTSD may provide important insights into the biological foundation of vulnerability and comorbidity.

Objective —  To discover genetic loci associated with the lifetime risk for PTSD in 2 cohorts from the Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers (Army STARRS).

Design, Setting, and Participants —  Two coordinated genome-wide association studies of mental health in the US military contributed participants. The New Soldier Study (NSS) included 3167 unique patients with PTSD and 4607 trauma-exposed control individuals; the Pre/Post Deployment Study (PPDS) included 947 unique patients with PTSD and 4969 trauma-exposed controls. The NSS data were collected from February 1, 2011, to November 30, 2012; the PDDS data, from January 9 to April 30, 2012. The primary analysis compared lifetime DSM-IV PTSD cases with trauma-exposed controls without lifetime PTSD. Data were analyzed from March 18 to December 27, 2015.

Main Outcomes and Measures —  Association analyses for PTSD used logistic regression models within each of 3 ancestral groups (European, African, and Latino American) by study, followed by meta-analysis. Heritability and genetic correlation and pleiotropy with other psychiatric and immune-related disorders were estimated.

Results —  The NSS population was 80.7% male (6277 of 7774 participants; mean [SD] age, 20.9 [3.3] years); the PPDS population, 94.4% male (5583 of 5916 participants; mean [SD] age, 26.5 [6.0] years). A genome-wide significant locus was found in ANKRD55 on chromosome 5 (rs159572; odds ratio [OR], 1.62; 95% CI, 1.37-1.92; P = 2.34 × 10−8) and persisted after adjustment for cumulative trauma exposure (adjusted OR, 1.64; 95% CI, 1.39-1.95; P = 1.18 × 10−8) in the African American samples from the NSS. A genome-wide significant locus was also found in or near ZNF626 on chromosome 19 (rs11085374; OR, 0.77; 95% CI, 0.70-0.85; P = 4.59 × 10−8) in the European American samples from the NSS. Similar results were not found for either single-nucleotide polymorphism in the corresponding ancestry group from the PPDS sample, in other ancestral groups, or in transancestral meta-analyses. Single-nucleotide polymorphism–based heritability was nonsignificant, and no significant genetic correlations were observed between PTSD and 6 mental disorders or 9 immune-related disorders. Significant evidence of pleiotropy was observed between PTSD and rheumatoid arthritis and, to a lesser extent, psoriasis.

Conclusions and Relevance —  In the largest genome-wide association study of PTSD to date, involving a US military sample, limited evidence of association for specific loci was found. Further efforts are needed to replicate the genome-wide significant association with ANKRD55—associated in prior research with several autoimmune and inflammatory disorders—and to clarify the nature of the genetic overlap observed between PTSD and rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis.

Read the full article here.

Association of Thalamic Dysconnectivity and Conversion to Psychosis in Youth and Young Adults at Elevated Clinical Risk

By Jadon R. WebbJean AddingtonDiana O. PerkinsCarrie E. BeardenKristin S. CadenheadTyrone D. CannonBarbara A. CornblattRobert K. HeinssenLarry J. SeidmanSarah I. TarboxMing T. TsuangElaine F. WalkerThomas H. McGlashanand Scott W. Woods | JAMA Psychiatry | August 12, 2015

Abstract: 

Importance

Severe neuropsychiatric conditions, such as schizophrenia, affect distributed neural computations. One candidate system profoundly altered in chronic schizophrenia involves the thalamocortical networks. It is widely acknowledged that schizophrenia is a neurodevelopmental disorder that likely affects the brain before onset of clinical symptoms. However, no investigation has tested whether thalamocortical connectivity is altered in individuals at risk for psychosis or whether this pattern is more severe in individuals who later develop full-blown illness.

Objectives

To determine whether baseline thalamocortical connectivity differs between individuals at clinical high risk for psychosis and healthy controls, whether this pattern is more severe in those who later convert to full-blown illness, and whether magnitude of thalamocortical dysconnectivity is associated with baseline prodromal symptom severity.

Design, Setting, and Participants

In this multicenter, 2-year follow-up, case-control study, we examined 397 participants aged 12-35 years of age (243 individuals at clinical high risk of psychosis, of whom 21 converted to full-blown illness, and 154 healthy controls). The baseline scan dates were January 15, 2010, to April 30, 2012.

Main Outcomes and Measures

Whole-brain thalamic functional connectivity maps were generated using individuals’ anatomically defined thalamic seeds, measured using resting-state functional connectivity magnetic resonance imaging.

Results

Using baseline magnetic resonance images, we identified thalamocortical dysconnectivity in the 243 individuals at clinical high risk for psychosis, which was particularly pronounced in the 21 participants who converted to full-blown illness. The pattern involved widespread hypoconnectivity between the thalamus and prefrontal and cerebellar areas, which was more prominent in those who converted to full-blown illness (t173 = 3.77, P < .001, Hedge g = 0.88). Conversely, there was marked thalamic hyperconnectivity with sensory motor areas, again most pronounced in those who converted to full-blown illness (t173 = 2.85, P < .001, Hedge g = 0.66). Both patterns were significantly correlated with concurrent prodromal symptom severity (r = 0.27, P < 3.6 × 10−8, Spearman ρ = 0.27, P < 4.75 × 10−5, 2-tailed).

Conclusions and Relevance

Thalamic dysconnectivity, resembling that seen in schizophrenia, was evident in individuals at clinical high risk for psychosis and more prominently in those who later converted to psychosis. Dysconnectivity correlated with symptom severity, supporting the idea that thalamic connectivity may have prognostic implications for risk of conversion to full-blown illness.

Read the full study here.