Edinburgh Imaging


07 Sep 18. Featured Paper

Polygenic risk score for schizophrenia and structural brain connectivity in older age: A longitudinal connectome and tractography study.

Link to paper on Science Direct.


C.Alloza, S.R.CoxM.Blesa CábezP.Redmond, H.C.Whalley, S.J.RitchieS.Muñoz ManiegaM.Del C Valdés HernándezE.M.Tucker-Drob, S.M.LawrieJ.M.WardlawI.J.DearyM.E.Bastin



Higher polygenic risk score for schizophrenia (szPGRS) has been associated with lower cognitive function and might be a predictor of decline in brain structure in apparently healthy populations. Age-related declines in structural brain connectivity—measured using white matter diffusion MRI —are evident from cross-sectional data. Yet, it remains unclear how graph theoretical metrics of the structural connectome change over time, and whether szPGRS is associated with differences in ageing-related changes in human brain connectivity.

Here, we studied a large, relatively healthy, same-year-of-birth, older age cohort over a period of 3 years (age ∼ 73 years, N = 731; age ∼76 years, N = 488). From their brain scans we derived tract-averaged fractional anisotropy (FA) and mean diffusivity (MD), and network topology properties. We investigated the cross-sectional and longitudinal associations between these structural brain variables and szPGRS. Higher szPGRS showed significant associations with longitudinal increases in MD in the splenium (β = 0.132, pFDR = 0.040), arcuate (β = 0.291, pFDR = 0.040), anterior thalamic radiations (β = 0.215, pFDR = 0.040) and cingulum (β = 0.165, pFDR = 0.040). Significant declines over time were observed in graph theory metrics for FA-weighted networks, such as mean edge weight (β = −0.039, pFDR = 0.048) and strength (β = −0.027, pFDR = 0.048). No significant associations were found between szPGRS and graph theory metrics.

These results are consistent with the hypothesis that szPGRS confers risk for ageing-related degradation of some aspects of structural connectivity.