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Approved research

Modeling genetic variation, gene expression and neuroimaging phenotypes to inform the etiology of psychopathology

Principal Investigator: Dr Maria Jalbrzikowski
Approved Research ID: 49529
Approval date: October 28th 2019

Lay summary

We want to understand how gene expression, the process by which gene information is converted to a functional product, is linked to brain function and structure. Gene expression is related to individual differences in brain structure and function. We know that alterations in brain structure and functional are present in psychiatric disorders, but we are still trying to understand the biological mechanisms driving these brain disruptions. We will focus on neuroimaging phenotypes that are important for adolescence, because adolescence is a developmental period that harbors increased vulnerability for developing psychiatric disorders. Thus, neuroimaging measures that are changing during adolescence are likely involved in the development of psychiatric symptoms. This study will first ask if brain measures relevant to adolescence are related to gene expression in healthy adults. This will allow us to develop a foundation for understanding relationships between neuroimaging measures and gene expression. We will later extend our findings to younger samples and determine if gene expression change along with the neuroimaging measures during typical development. Results from this project will help us understand biological mechanisms underlying individual differences in brain function and structure. Linking genetic factors to brain structure and function will help us understand how genes affect brain pathways. We can then be able to use these findings to help us understand why psychiatric disorders are more likely to develop during adolescence. Identifying how gene expression and neuroimaging phenotypes are related may help us identify biological risk factors that facilitate earlier identification of those at higher risk.