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Brain vs behavior: an effect size comparison of neuroimaging and cognitive studies of genetic risk for schizophrenia.Genetic variants associated with increased risk for schizophrenia (SZ) are hypothesized to be more penetrant at the level of brain structure and function than at the level of behavior. However, to date the relative sensitivity of imaging vs cognitive measures of these variants has not been quantified. We considered effect sizes associated with cognitive and imaging studies of 9 robust SZ risk genes (DAOA, DISC1, DTNBP1, NRG1, RGS4, NRGN, CACNA1C, TCF4, and ZNF804A) published between January 2005-November 2011. Summary data was used to calculate estimates of effect size for each significant finding. The mean effect size for each study was categorized as small, medium, or large and the relative frequency of each category was compared between modalities and across genes. Random effects meta-analysis was used to consider the impact of experimental methodology on effect size. Imaging studies reported mostly medium or large effects, whereas cognitive investigations commonly reported small effects. Meta-analysis confirmed that imaging studies were associated with larger effects. Effect size estimates were negatively correlated with sample size but did not differ as a function of gene nor imaging modality. These observations support the notion that SZ risk variants show larger effects, and hence greater penetrance, when characterized using indices of brain structure and function than when indexed by cognitive measures. However, it remains to be established whether this holds true for individual risk variants, imaging modalities, or cognitive functions, and how such effects may be mediated by a relationship with sample size and other aspects of experimental variability.
Effects of ZNF804A on auditory P300 response in schizophrenia.The common variant rs1344706 within the zinc-finger protein gene ZNF804A has been strongly implicated in schizophrenia (SZ) susceptibility by a series of recent genetic association studies. Although associated with a pattern of altered neural connectivity, evidence that increased risk is mediated by an effect on cognitive deficits associated with the disorder has been equivocal. This study investigated whether the same ZNF804A risk allele was associated with variation in the P300 auditory-evoked response, a cognitively relevant putative endophenotype for SZ. We compared P300 responses in carriers and noncarriers of the ZNF804A risk allele genotype groups in Irish patients and controls (n=97). P300 response was observed to vary according to genotype in this sample, such that risk allele carriers showed relatively higher P300 response compared with noncarriers. This finding accords with behavioural data reported by our group and others. It is also consistent with the idea that ZNF804A may have an impact on cortical efficiency, reflected in the higher levels of activations required to achieve comparable behavioural accuracy on the task used.
Neural effects of the CSMD1 genome-wide associated schizophrenia risk variant rs10503253.The single nucleotide polymorphism rs10503253 within the CUB and Sushi multiple domains-1 (CSMD1) gene on 8p23.2 has been identified as genome-wide significant for schizophrenia (SZ). This gene is of unknown function but has been implicated in multiple neurodevelopmental disorders that impact upon cognition, leading us to hypothesize that an effect on brain structure and function underlying cognitive processes may be part of the mechanism by which CMSD1 increases illness risk. To test this hypothesis, we investigated this CSMD1 variant in vivo in healthy participants in a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) study comprised of both fMRI of spatial working memory (N = 50) and a voxel-based morphometry investigation of grey and white matter (WM) volume (N = 150). Analyses of these data indicated that the risk "A" allele was associated with comparatively reduced cortical activations in BA18, that is, middle occipital gyrus and cuneus; posterior brain regions that support maintenance processes during performance of a spatial working memory task. Conversely, there was an absence of significant structural differences in brain volume (i.e., grey or WM). In accordance with previous evidence, these data suggest that CSMD1 may mediate brain function related to cognitive processes (i.e., executive function); with the relatively deleterious effects of the identified "A" risk allele on brain activity possibly constituting part of the mechanism by which CSMD1 increases schizophrenia risk.