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Telomere length as a predictor of emotional processing in the brain

Powell, T., de Jong, S., Breen, G. , Lewis, C. M. & Dima, D. ORCID: 0000-0002-2598-0952 (2018). Telomere length as a predictor of emotional processing in the brain. Human Brain Mapping, 40(6), pp. 1750-1759. doi: 10.1002/hbm.24487


Shorter telomere length (TL) has been associated with the development of mood disorders as well as abnormalities in brain morphology. However, so far, no studies have considered the role TL may have on brain function during tasks relevant to mood disorders. In this study, we examine the relationship between TL and functional brain activation and connectivity, while participants (n = 112) perform a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) facial affect recognition task. Additionally, because variation in TL has a substantial genetic component we calculated polygenic risk scores for TL to test if they predict face-related functional brain activation. First, our results showed that TL was positively associated with increased activation in the amygdala and cuneus, as well as increased connectivity from posterior regions of the face network to the ventral prefrontal cortex. Second, polygenic risk scores for TL show a positive association with medial prefrontal cortex activation. The data support the view that TL and genetic loading for shorter telomeres, influence the function of brain regions known to be involved in emotional processing.

Publication Type: Article
Publisher Keywords: bipolar disorder, emotional faces, fMRI, polygenic risk score, telomere length
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
SWORD Depositor:
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Available under License Creative Commons: Attribution International Public License 4.0.

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