Imaging genetics in neurodevelopmental psychopathology

Klein, M., Van Donkelaar, M., Verhoef, E., & Franke, B. (2017). Imaging genetics in neurodevelopmental psychopathology. American Journal of Medical Genetics Part B: Neuropsychiatric Genetics, 174(5), 485-537. doi:10.1002/ajmg.b.32542.
Neurodevelopmental disorders are defined by highly heritable problems during development and brain growth. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), and intellectual disability (ID) are frequent neurodevelopmental disorders, with common comorbidity among them. Imaging genetics studies on the role of disease-linked genetic variants on brain structure and function have been performed to unravel the etiology of these disorders. Here, we reviewed imaging genetics literature on these disorders attempting to understand the mechanisms of individual disorders and their clinical overlap. For ADHD and ASD, we selected replicated candidate genes implicated through common genetic variants. For ID, which is mainly caused by rare variants, we included genes for relatively frequent forms of ID occurring comorbid with ADHD or ASD. We reviewed case-control studies and studies of risk variants in healthy individuals. Imaging genetics studies for ADHD were retrieved for SLC6A3/DAT1, DRD2, DRD4, NOS1, and SLC6A4/5HTT. For ASD, studies on CNTNAP2, MET, OXTR, and SLC6A4/5HTT were found. For ID, we reviewed the genes FMR1, TSC1 and TSC2, NF1, and MECP2. Alterations in brain volume, activity, and connectivity were observed. Several findings were consistent across studies, implicating, for example, SLC6A4/5HTT in brain activation and functional connectivity related to emotion regulation. However, many studies had small sample sizes, and hypothesis-based, brain region-specific studies were common. Results from available studies confirm that imaging genetics can provide insight into the link between genes, disease-related behavior, and the brain. However, the field is still in its early stages, and conclusions about shared mechanisms cannot yet be drawn.
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