Genetic and environmental influences on structural brain measures in twins with autism spectrum disorder.
Genetic and environmental influences on corticostriatal circuits in twins with autism
Journal of psychiatry & neuroscience : JPN
2019; 44 (6): 190030
Atypical growth patterns of the brain have been previously reported in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) but these alterations are heterogeneous across individuals, which may be associated with the variable effects of genetic and environmental influences on brain development. Monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twin pairs with and without ASD (aged 6-15 years) were recruited to participate in this study. T1-weighted MRIs (n=164) were processed with FreeSurfer to evaluate structural brain measures. Intra-class correlations were examined within twin pairs and compared across diagnostic groups. ACE modeling was also completed. Structural brain measures, including cerebral and cerebellar gray matter (GM) and white matter (WM) volume, surface area, and cortical thickness, were primarily influenced by genetic factors in TD twins; however, mean curvature appeared to be primarily influenced by environmental factors. Similarly, genetic factors accounted for the majority of variation in brain size in twins with ASD, potentially to a larger extent regarding curvature and subcortical GM; however, there were also more environmental contributions in twins with ASD on some structural brain measures, such that cortical thickness and cerebellar WM volume were primarily influenced by environmental factors. These findings indicate potential neurobiological outcomes of the genetic and environmental risk factors that have been previously associated with ASD and, although preliminary, may help account for some of the previously outlined neurobiological heterogeneity across affected individuals. This is especially relevant regarding the role of genetic and environmental factors in the development of ASD, in which certain brain structures may be more sensitive to specific influences.
View details for PubMedID 30659287
Corticostriatal circuits (CSC) have been implicated in the presentation of some restricted and repetitive behaviours (RRBs) in children with autism-spectrum disorder (ASD), and preliminary evidence suggests that disruptions in these pathways may be associated with differences in genetic and environmental influences on brain development. The objective of this investigation was to examine the impact of genetic and environmental factors on CSC regions in twins with and without ASD and to evaluate their relationship with the severity of RRBs.We obtained T1-weighted MRIs from same-sex monozygotic and dizygotic twin pairs, aged 6?15 years. Good-quality data were available from 48 ASD pairs (n = 96 twins; 30 pairs concordant for ASD, 15 monozygotic and 15 dizygotic; 18 pairs discordant for ASD, 4 monozygotic and 14 dizygotic) and 34 typically developing control pairs (n = 68 twins; 20 monozygotic and 14 dizygotic pairs). We generated structural measures of the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), caudate, putamen, pallidum and thalamus using FreeSurfer. Twin pair comparisons included intraclass correlation analyses and ACE modelling (a2 = additive genetics; c2 = common or shared environment; e2 = unique or nonshared environment). We also assessed correlations with RRB severity.Structural variation in CSC regions was predominantly genetically mediated in typically developing twins (a2 = 0.56 to 0.87), except for ACC white matter volume (a2 = 0.42, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.08 to 0.77). We also observed similar magnitudes of genetic influence in twins with ASD (a2 = 0.65 to 0.97), but the cortical thickness of the ACC (c2 = 0.44, 95% CI 0.22 to 0.66) and OFC (c2 = 0.60, 95% CI 0.25 to 0.95) was primarily associated with environmental factors in only twins with ASD. Twin pair differences in OFC grey matter volume were also correlated with RRB severity and were predominantly environmentally mediated.We obtained MRIs on 2 scanners, and analytical approaches could not identify specific genetic and environmental factors.Genetic factors primarily contribute to structural variation in subcortical CSC regions, regardless of ASD, but environmental factors may exert a greater influence on the development of grey matter thickness in the OFC and ACC in children with ASD. The increased vulnerability of OFC grey matter to environmental influences may also mediate some heterogeneity in RRB severity in children with ASD.
View details for DOI 10.1503/jpn.190030
View details for PubMedID 31603639