Sourena Soheili-Nezhad


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  • Soheili-Nezhad, S., Sprooten, E., Tendolkar, I., & Medici, M. (2023). Exploring the genetic link between thyroid dysfunction and common psychiatric disorders: A specific hormonal or a general autoimmune comorbidity. Thyroid, 33(2), 159-168. doi:10.1089/thy.2022.0304.


    Background: The hypothalamus-pituitary-thyroid axis coordinates brain development and postdevelopmental function. Thyroid hormone (TH) variations, even within the normal range, have been associated with the risk of developing common psychiatric disorders, although the underlying mechanisms remain poorly understood.

    Methods: To get new insight into the potentially shared mechanisms underlying thyroid dysfunction and psychiatric disorders, we performed a comprehensive analysis of multiple phenotypic and genotypic databases. We investigated the relationship of thyroid disorders with depression, bipolar disorder (BIP), and anxiety disorders (ANXs) in 497,726 subjects from U.K. Biobank. We subsequently investigated genetic correlations between thyroid disorders, thyrotropin (TSH), and free thyroxine (fT4) levels, with the genome-wide factors that predispose to psychiatric disorders. Finally, the observed global genetic correlations were furthermore pinpointed to specific local genomic regions.

    Results: Hypothyroidism was positively associated with an increased risk of major depressive disorder (MDD; OR = 1.31, p = 5.29 × 10−89), BIP (OR = 1.55, p = 0.0038), and ANX (OR = 1.16, p = 6.22 × 10−8). Hyperthyroidism was associated with MDD (OR = 1.11, p = 0.0034) and ANX (OR = 1.34, p = 5.99 × 10−⁶). Genetically, strong coheritability was observed between thyroid disease and both major depressive (rg = 0.17, p = 2.7 × 10−⁴) and ANXs (rg = 0.17, p = 6.7 × 10−⁶). This genetic correlation was particularly strong at the major histocompatibility complex locus on chromosome 6 (p < 10−⁵), but further analysis showed that other parts of the genome also contributed to this global effect. Importantly, neither TSH nor fT4 levels were genetically correlated with mood disorders.

    Conclusions: Our findings highlight an underlying association between autoimmune hypothyroidism and mood disorders, which is not mediated through THs and in which autoimmunity plays a prominent role. While these findings could shed new light on the potential ineffectiveness of treating (minor) variations in thyroid function in psychiatric disorders, further research is needed to identify the exact underlying molecular mechanisms.

    Additional information

    supplementary table S1
  • Damatac, C. G., Soheili-Nezhad, S., Blazquez Freches, G., Zwiers, M. P., De Bruijn, S., Ikde, S., Portengen, C. M., Abelmann, A. C., Dammers, J. T., Van Rooij, D., Akkermans, S. E., Naaijen, J., Franke, B., Buitelaar, J. K., Beckmann, C. F., & Sprooten, E. (2022). Longitudinal changes of ADHD symptoms in association with white matter microstructure: A tract-specific fixel-based analysis. NeuroImage: Clinical, 35: 103057. doi:10.1016/j.nicl.2022.103057.



    Variation in the longitudinal course of childhood attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) coincides with neurodevelopmental maturation of brain structure and function. Prior work has attempted to determine how alterations in white matter (WM) relate to changes in symptom severity, but much of that work has been done in smaller cross-sectional samples using voxel-based analyses. Using standard diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) methods, we previously showed WM alterations were associated with ADHD symptom remission over time in a longitudinal sample of probands, siblings, and unaffected individuals. Here, we extend this work by further assessing the nature of these changes in WM microstructure by including an additional follow-up measurement (aged 18 – 34 years), and using the more physiologically informative fixel-based analysis (FBA).

    Data were obtained from 139 participants over 3 clinical and 2 follow-up DWI waves, and analyzed using FBA in regions-of-interest based on prior findings. We replicated previously reported significant models and extended them by adding another time-point, testing whether changes in combined ADHD and hyperactivity-impulsivity (HI) continuous symptom scores are associated with fixel metrics at follow-up.

    Clinical improvement in HI symptoms over time was associated with more fiber density at follow-up in the left corticospinal tract (lCST) (tmax = 1.092, standardized effect[SE] = 0.044, pFWE = 0.016). Improvement in combined ADHD symptoms over time was associated with more fiber cross-section at follow-up in the lCST (tmax = 3.775, SE = 0.051, pFWE = 0.019).

    Aberrant white matter development involves both lCST micro- and macrostructural alterations, and its path may be moderated by preceding symptom trajectory.

    Additional information

    supplementary material

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