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Genetic evidence for shared risks across psychiatric disorders and related traits in a Swedish population twin sample

By Mark J Taylor, Joanna Martin, Yi Lu, Isabell Brikell, Sebastian Lundstrom, Henrik Larsson, Paul Lichtenstein

Posted 15 Dec 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/234963

Psychiatric traits related to categorically-defined psychiatric disorders are heritable and present to varying degrees in the general population. In this study, we test the hypothesis that genetic risk factors associated with psychiatric disorders are also associated with continuous variation in milder population traits. We combine a contemporary twin analytic approach with polygenic risk score (PRS) analyses in a large population-based twin sample. Questionnaires assessing traits of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), learning difficulties, tic disorders (TD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), anxiety, major depressive disorder (MDD), mania and psychotic experiences were administered to a large, Swedish twin sample. Individuals with clinical psychiatric diagnoses were identified using the Swedish National Patient Register. Joint categorical/continuous twin modeling was used to estimate genetic correlations between psychiatric diagnoses and continuous traits. PRS for psychiatric disorders were calculated based on independent discovery genetic data. The association between PRS for each disorder and related continuous traits was tested. We found mild to strong genetic correlations between psychiatric diagnoses and corresponding traits (ranging from .31-.69) in the twin analyses. There was also evidence of association between PRS for ASD, ADHD, TD, OCD, anxiety, MDD and schizophrenia with related population traits. These results indicate that genetic factors which predispose to psychiatric disorders are also associated with milder variation in characteristic traits throughout the general population, for many psychiatric phenotypes. This finding supports the conceptualization of psychiatric disorders as the extreme ends of continuous traits.

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