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A transdiagnostic neuroanatomical signature of psychiatric illness

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Qiyong Gong, Cristina Scarpazza, Jing Dai, Manxi He, Xin Xu, Yan Shi, Baiwan Zhou, Sandra Vieira, Eamon Mccrory, Yuan Ai, Cheng Yang, Feifei Zhang, Su Lui, Andrea Mechelli

Original languageEnglish
Accepted/In press19 Jul 2018
Published8 Aug 2018


King's Authors


Despite an increasing focus on transdiagnostic approaches to mental health, it remains unclear whether different diagnostic categories share a common neuronatomical basis. The current investigation sought to investigate whether a transdiagnostic set of structural alterations characterized schizophrenia, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, and determine whether any such alterations reflected markers of psychiatric illness or pre-existing familial vulnerability. A total of 404 patients with a psychiatric diagnosis were recruited (psychosis, n = 129; unipolar depression, n = 92; post-traumatic stress disorder, n = 91; obsessive-compulsive disorder, n = 92) alongside n = 201 healthy controls and n = 20 unaffected first-degree relatives. We collected structural magnetic resonance imaging scans from each participant, and tested for transdiagnostic alterations using Voxel-based morphometry. Inferences were made at p < 0.05 after family-wise error correction for multiple comparisons. The four psychiatric groups relative to healthy controls were all characterized by significantly greater gray matter volume in the putamen (right: z-score: 5.97, p-value < 0.001; left: z-score: 4.97, p-value = 0.001); the volume of this region was positively correlated with severity of symptoms across groups (r = 0.313; p < 0.001). Putamen enlargement was also evident in unaffected relatives compared to healthy controls (right: z-score: 8.13, p-value < 0.001; left: z-score: 9.38, p-value < 0.001). Taken collectively, these findings indicate that increased putamen volume may reflect a transdiagnostic marker of familial vulnerability to psychopathology. This is consistent with emerging conceptualizations of psychiatric illness, in which each disorder is understood as a combination of diagnosis-specific features and a transdiagnostic factor reflecting general psychopathology.

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