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- Title: Velocardiofacial Syndrome (VCFS) as a genetic model for schizophrenia
- Name of the PI: Marek Kubicki, MD, PhD
- Affiliation/Institution: Harvard Medical School, Psychiatry Neuroimaging Laboratory, Department of Psychiatry, Brigham and Women's Hospital
- Science: VCFS is a genetic disorder characterized by a deletion of a small piece of chromosome-22. The features of this syndrome include deficits in neurological psychomotor and perceptual skills, as well as in cognitive domains such as learning and memory. Most importantly, up to 30% of VCFS patients develop schizophrenia, making it the most commonly known single risk factor for the development of psychosis and a unique model for studying neurodevelopmental changes leading to psychotic deficits. We plan to collect new, high resolution DTI, structural and fMRI data, and apply existing NAMIC tools, as well as help to develop new tools to investigate the contribution of genetic variation to brain and behavioral/cognitive abnormalities, thus bridging the gap between neuroimaging studies and genetics.
- Benefits to NA-MIC: The NAMIC community will gain access to new, high resolution diffusion and fMRI data acquired on the 3T magnet at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Unlike in schizophrenia, subjects with VCFS have concrete cognitive abnormalities, in addition to a well defined chromosomal abnormality, which, taken together, will make it easier to establish scientific protocols that reveal associated anatomical and functional brain abnormalities in this disorder. Interestingly, some anatomical abnormalities will be shared between VCFS and schizophrenia (e.g., connections within working memory circuits), and some will be not (e.g., sensory and motor paths). Genetic data will also be collected for each individual and will also be available for further analyses with the imaging and neurocognitive data. This NAMIC collaboration with thus enable the PI to apply NAMIC tools to VCFS, a genetic disorder that is viewed as a genetically mediated subtype of schizophrenia. To date, there have only been a small number of neuroimaging studies of this disorder and no studies have combined neurocognitive, neuroimaging, and genetic investigations in the same study. Importantly, this research will also increase our understanding of schizophrenia, and will help establish a multimodal research project involving an important collaboration between computer scientists, cognitive neuroscientists, radiologists, psychiatrists, and geneticists. The focus on imaging and genes also affords a new window of opportunity for defining further the new area of “imaging genomics”.