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Dual-systems models of the genetic architecture of impulsive personality traits: neurogenetic evidence of distinct but related factors.

Psychological Medicine 2023 November 30
BACKGROUND: Dual-systems models, positing an interaction between two distinct and competing systems (i.e. top-down self-control, and bottom-up reward- or emotion-based drive), provide a parsimonious framework for investigating the interplay between cortical and subcortical brain regions relevant to impulsive personality traits (IPTs) and their associations with psychopathology. Despite recent developments in multivariate analysis of genome-wide association studies (GWAS), molecular genetic investigations of these models have not been conducted.

METHODS: Using IPT GWAS, we conducted confirmatory genomic structural equation models (GenomicSEM) to empirically evaluate dual-systems models of the genetic architecture of IPTs. Genetic correlations between dual-systems factors and relevant cortical and subcortical neuroimaging phenotypes (regional/structural volume, cortical surface area, cortical thickness) were estimated and compared.

RESULTS: GenomicSEM dual-systems models underscored important sources of shared and unique genetic variance between top-down and bottom-up constructs. Specifically, a dual-systems genomic model consisting of sensation seeking and lack of self-control factors demonstrated distinct but related sources of genetic influences ( rg = 0.60). Genetic correlation analyses provided evidence of differential associations between dual-systems factors and cortical neuroimaging phenotypes (e.g. lack of self-control negatively associated with cortical thickness, sensation seeking positively associated with cortical surface area). No significant associations were observed with subcortical phenotypes.

CONCLUSIONS: Dual-systems models of the genetic architecture of IPTs tested were consistent with study hypotheses, but associations with relevant neuroimaging phenotypes were mixed (e.g. no associations with subcortical volumes). Findings demonstrate the utility of dual-systems models for studying IPT genetic influences, but also highlight potential limitations as a framework for interpreting IPTs as endophenotypes for psychopathology.

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