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A new Mendelian Randomization method to estimate causal effects of multivariable brain imaging exposures

By Chen Mo, Zhenyao Ye, Hongjie Ke, Tong Lu, Travis Canida, Song Liu, Qiong Wu, Zhiwei Zhao, Yizhou Ma, L Elliot Hong, Peter Kochunov, Tianzhou Ma, Shuo Chen

Posted 03 Oct 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.10.01.462221

The advent of simultaneously collected imaging-genetics data in large study cohorts provides an unprecedented opportunity to assess the causal effect of brain imaging traits on externally measured experimental results (e.g., cognitive tests) by treating genetic variants as instrumental variables. However, classic Mendelian Randomization methods are limited when handling high-throughput imaging traits as exposures to identify causal effects. We propose a new Mendelian Randomization framework to jointly select instrumental variables and imaging exposures, and then estimate the causal effect of multivariable imaging data on the outcome variable. We validate the proposed method with extensive data analyses and compare it with existing methods. We further apply our method to evaluate the causal effect of white matter microstructure integrity (WM) on cognitive function. The findings suggest that our method achieved better performance regarding sensitivity, bias, and false discovery rate compared to individually assessing the causal effect of a single exposure and jointly assessing the causal effect of multiple exposures without dimension reduction. Our application results indicated that WM measures across different tracts have a joint causal effect significantly impact on the cognitive function among the participants from the UK Biobank.

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