Convergence of Brain Transcriptomic and Neuroimaging Patterns in Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and Major Depressive Disorder

Dirk Jan Ardesch*, Ilan Libedinsky, Lianne H. Scholtens, Yongbin Wei, Martijn P. van den Heuvel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Psychiatric conditions show overlap in their symptoms, genetics, and involvement in brain areas and circuits. Structural alterations in the brain have been found to run in parallel with expression profiles of risk genes at the level of the brain transcriptome, which may point toward a potential transdiagnostic vulnerability of the brain to disease processes. Methods: We characterized the transcriptomic vulnerability of the cortex across 4 major psychiatric disorders based on collated data from patients with psychiatric disorders (n = 390) and matched control participants (n = 293). We compared normative expression profiles of risk genes linked to schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, autism spectrum disorder, and major depressive disorder to examine cross-disorder overlap in spatial expression profiles across the cortex and their concordance with a magnetic resonance imaging–derived cross-disorder profile of structural brain alterations. Results: We showed high expression of psychiatric risk genes converging on multimodal cortical regions of the limbic, ventral attention, and default mode networks versus primary somatosensory networks. Risk genes were found to be enriched among genes associated with the magnetic resonance imaging cross-disorder profile, suggestive of a common link between brain anatomy and the transcriptome in psychiatric conditions. Characterization of this cross-disorder structural alteration map further shows enrichment for gene markers of astrocytes, microglia, and supragranular cortical layers. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that normative expression profiles of disorder risk genes confer a shared and spatially patterned vulnerability of the cortex across multiple psychiatric conditions. Transdiagnostic overlap in transcriptomic risk suggests a common pathway to brain dysfunction across psychiatric disorders.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBiological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging
Early online date2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2023

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