Post doc Sudheer Giddaluru
Genome wide association studies of brain imaging and cognitive phenotypes
Sudheer Giddaluru, PhD in biostatistics
Understanding human brain is one of the greatest scientific challenges. An array of complex interactions between genes and environment are at play. One needs to analyze the relationships between behavioral traits, genes, and brain structure to fully understand its function. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging was responsible for much of the recent growth of human neuroscience research. Twin studies have shown many psychological functions to be heritable.
Notably, brain imaging offers an efficient approach to discover genes involved in mental illness as many brain measures are consistently reported as affected in psychiatric cohort studies. This approach of cognitive and brain imaging measures as so called intermediate or endophenotypes may help us to understand the factors mediating the effects of genetic risk variants to psychiatric illnesses.
The major focus of my work involves the study of how individual genetic differences lead to differences in brain wiring, structure, and intellectual function. In a recent paper (1) from our group we reported novel genetic variants associated with a whole brain index reflecting structural integrity of the myelin and a processing speed task. Myelin ensheathment provides electrical insulation to nerve axons, which is necessary for synchronized information processing in the brain. Information processing is a fundamental capacity and correlates with performance on different cognitive tasks.
Several of the genes identified in this study have previously been implicated in central nervous system (CNS) related function such as neuronal development. Further, we have identified the results to be enriched for gene sets relevant in myelination in the central nervous system. We have also identified a gene called CSMD1 earlier implicated in schizophrenia along with new loci for future investigations.
- Giddaluru S, Espeseth T, Salami A, Westlye LT, Lundquist A, Christoforou A, Cichon S, Adolfsson R, Steen VM, Reinvang I, Nilsson LG, Le Hellard S, Nyberg L. Genetics of structural connectivity and information processing in the brain. Brain Struct Funct. 2016 Feb 6. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 26852023.