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Genetic factors contributing to connection issues for white matter in the human brain discovered

Genetic factors contributing to connection issues for white matter in the human brain discovered
SNP-based heritability and mvGWAS analyses of node-level connectivity and edge-level connectivity in 30,810 participants.(A) All 90 node-level (i.e., regional) connectivities showed significant SNP-based heritability after Bonferroni correction, ranging from 7.8 to 29.5%. (B) Eight hundred fifty-one of 947 edge-level connectivities showed significant SNP-based heritability after Bonferroni correction, ranging from 4.6 to 29.5%. Right: Brain maps. Left: Nodes grouped by frontal, prefrontal, parietal, temporal, and occipital cortical lobes and subcortical structures. Heritabilities can be visualized interactively in a dynamic Web-based interface (see “Data and materials availability” statement). (C) Miami plot for mvGWAS of 90 node-level connectivities (top) and 851 edge-level connectivities (bottom). The black lines indicate the genome-wide significance threshold P < 2.5 × 10−8 (Materials and Methods). Credit: Science Advances (2023). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.add2870

A team of medical scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics has found structural differences in white matter in the human brain that can be linked to genetic variants that may be responsible for some behavioral traits and brain disorders.

In their paper published in Science Advances, the group describes how they used multiple techniques to help them discover that are involved in connection issues between white matter areas in the —some of which might be involved in raising the risk of .

Prior research has shown that one of the leading roles of white brain matter is to serve as a network of sorts, routing neural signals between different parts of the brain. Prior research has also found some evidence of links between genetic problems leading to tiny variations in white matter structure and several brain disorders. In this new effort, the researchers looked to learn more about the link between genetic variants in white matter and brain disorders.

The team began their work by analyzing 30,810 and associated genotyping data held in the U.K. Biobank. The images were studied using , a kind of MRI scan that uses tractography to help visualize white matter tracts in 3D images. Such work helped to isolate structural variations.

They next conducted a genetic association analysis on the genotyped data and in so doing found that they were able to identify 325 loci that could be associated with white matter structures that differed from the norm.

In comparing the structural differences they observed with work by other researchers, they found that most of the genetic variants responsible for them were most active during embryonic and fetal development. They also found some possible links between the variants they found (and subsequent structural differences) and brain disorders—they note that prior research has shown that many people with brain disorders such as autism have a reduced number of white matter connections.

The researchers conclude by suggesting that reductions in connections associated with structural impairment due to genetic variants are a risk factor for several types of brain disorders.

More information: Zhiqiang Sha et al, Genetic architecture of the white matter connectome of the human brain, Science Advances (2023). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.add2870

Journal information: Science Advances

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Citation: Genetic factors contributing to connection issues for white matter in the human brain discovered (2023, February 20) retrieved 22 February 2024 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2023-02-genetic-factors-contributing-issues-white.html
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