Abnormalities in gray matter microstructure in young adults with 22q11.2 deletion syndrome

Kikinis Z, Makris N, Sydnor VJ, Bouix S, Pasternak O, Coman IL, Antshel KM, Fremont W, Kubicki MR, Shenton ME, Kates WR, Rathi Y

Neuroimage Clin 2019;21:101611

PMID: 30522971


BACKGROUND: 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome (22q11DS) is a genetic, neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by a chromosomal deletion and a distinct cognitive profile. Although abnormalities in the macrostructure of the cortex have been identified in individuals with 22q11DS, it is not known if there are additional microstructural changes in gray matter regions in this syndrome, and/or if such microstructural changes are associated with cognitive functioning.

METHODS: This study employed a novel diffusion MRI measure, the Heterogeneity of Fractional Anisotropy (HFA), to examine variability in the microstructural organization of the cortex in healthy young adults (N = 30) and those with 22q11DS (N = 56). Diffusion MRI, structural MRI, clinical and cognitive data were acquired.

RESULTS: Compared to controls, individuals with 22q11DS evinced increased HFA in cortical association (p = .003, d = 0.86) and paralimbic (p < .0001, d = 1.2) brain areas, whereas no significant differences were found between the two groups in primary cortical brain areas. Additionally, increased HFA of the right paralimbic area was associated with poorer performance on tests of response inhibition, i.e., the Stroop Test (rho = -0.37 p = .005) and the Gordon Diagnostic System Vigilance Commission (rho = -0.41 p = .002) in the 22q11DS group. No significant correlations were found between HFA and cognitive abilities in the healthy control group.

CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest that cortical microstructural disorganization may be a neural correlate of response inhibition in individuals with 22q11DS. Given that the migration pattern of neural crest cells is disrupted at the time of early brain development in 22q11DS, we hypothesize that these neural alterations may be neurodevelopmental in origin, and reflect cortical dysfunction associated with cognitive deficits.