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Brain morphometry in 22q11.2 deletion syndrome: an exploration of differences in cortical thickness, surface area, and their contribution to cortical volume


22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome (22q11.2DS) is the most common microdeletion in humans, with a heterogenous clinical presentation including medical, behavioural and psychiatric conditions. Previous neuroimaging studies examining the neuroanatomical underpinnings of 22q11.2DS show alterations in cortical volume (CV), cortical thickness (CT) and surface area (SA). The aim of this study was to identify (1) the spatially distributed networks of differences in CT and SA in 22q11.2DS compared to controls, (2) their unique and spatial overlap, as well as (3) their relative contribution to observed differences in CV. Structural MRI scans were obtained from 62 individuals with 22q11.2DS and 57 age-and-gender-matched controls (aged 6-31). Using FreeSurfer, we examined differences in vertex-wise estimates of CV, CT and SA at each vertex, and compared the frequencies of vertices with a unique or overlapping difference for each morphometric feature. Our findings indicate that CT and SA make both common and unique contributions to volumetric differences in 22q11.2DS, and in some areas, their strong opposite effects mask differences in CV. By identifying the neuroanatomic variability in 22q11.2DS, and the separate contributions of CT and SA, we can start exploring the shared and distinct mechanisms that mediate neuropsychiatric symptoms across disorders, e.g. 22q11.2DS-related ASD and/or psychosis/schizophrenia.

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