Direct and Indirect Relations of Brain Structure, Executive Functioning, and General Psychopathology in an Adult Healthy and Cross-Diagnostic Patient Sample

Adrienne Romer, PhD

McLean Hospital
Direct and Indirect Relations of Brain Structure, Executive Functioning, and General Psychopathology in an Adult Healthy and Cross-Diagnostic Patient Sample

Scientific Abstract

Background: A general psychopathology ‘p’ factor captures shared variance across internalizing, externalizing, and thought disorders. One hypothesis is that the p factor may reflect poor executive functioning (EF). Higher levels of p have been related to structural alterations within the visual association cortex (VAC) and cerebello-thalamo-cerebro-cortical circuit (CTCC), both of which are important for executive control. Here, we tested replicability of these direct associations as well as the indirect role of EF in a sample of healthy and cross- diagnostic adult patients.

Methods: Participants included 272 adults (aged 21-50) who were either below diagnostic cutoffs or who met diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia, bipolar I disorder, or attention deficit- hyperactivity disorder from the Consortium for Neuropsychiatric Phenomics study. Using confirmatory factor analysis, p and EF factors were identified from comprehensive mental-health assessments and neurocognitive tests, respectively. Region-of-interest (ROI) analyses of grey matter volume and white matter integrity within the VAC and CTCC ROIs were conducted using multimodal structural neuroimaging data. Direct and indirect paths from VAC and CTCC structure to the p factor via the EF factor were tested using structural equation modeling.

Results: Structural equation modeling revealed significant direct relations between higher levels of p and decreased EF (b=-0.335, 99% bias-corrected CI [-0.487, -0.127]) and reduced VAC grey matter volume (b=-0.268, 99% bias-corrected CI [-0.474, -0.051]), replicating previous research. In contrast, we failed to replicate prior negative relations between p and CTCC structure. A significant indirect relation between VAC grey matter volume and p via EF also was identified (b=−0.057, 99% bias-corrected CI [-0.136, -0.007]) (standardized b’s).

Conclusions: Executive dysfunction may underlie relations between VAC structure and general psychopathology. Replication of associations between VAC structural alterations and the p factor encourages further focus on this brain structure as a neural substrate underlying both EF and general psychopathology.

Live Zoom Session – April 21st

research Areas

Authors

Adrienne L. Romer, PhD, Diego A. Pizzagalli, PhD

Affiliated Website