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Replicability of Structural Brain Alterations Associated with General Psychopathology: Evidence from a Population-Representative Birth Cohort

By Adrienne L. Romer, Annchen R. Knodt, Maria L Sison, David Ireland, Renate Houts, Sandhya Ramrakha, Richie Poulton, Ross Keenan, Tracy R. Melzer, Terrie E. Moffitt, Avshalom Caspi, Ahmad R Hariri

Posted 12 Jun 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/667220 (published DOI: 10.1038/s41380-019-0621-z)

Transdiagnostic research has identified a general psychopathology factor – often called the ‘ p ’ factor – that accounts for shared variation across internalizing, externalizing, and thought disorders in diverse samples. It has been argued that the p factor may reflect dysfunctional thinking present in serious mental illness. In support of this, we previously used a theory-free, data-driven multimodal neuroimaging approach to find that higher p factor scores are associated with structural alterations within a cerebello-thalamo-cortical circuit (CTCC) and visual association cortex, both of which are important for monitoring and coordinating information processing in the service of executive control. Here we attempt to replicate these associations by conducting region-of-interest analyses of CTCC and visual association cortex using data from 875 members of the Dunedin Longitudinal Study, a five-decade study of a population-representative birth cohort now 45 years old. We further sought to replicate a more recent report that p factor scores can be predicted by patterns of distributed cerebellar morphology as estimated through independent component analysis. We successfully replicated associations between higher p factor scores and both reduced grey matter volume of the visual association cortex and fractional anisotropy of pontine white matter pathways within the CTCC. In contrast, we failed to replicate prior associations between cerebellar structure and p factor scores. Collectively, our findings encourage further focus on the CTCC and visual association cortex as core neural substrates and potential biomarkers of general psychopathology.

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