Crimi, Alessandro; Mulder, Nicola J.; Chimusa, Emile R.; Elsheikh, Samar S. M.

Variations in the human genome have been found to be an essential factor that affects susceptibility to Alzheimer’s disease. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified genetic loci that significantly contribute to the risk of Alzheimers. The availability of genetic data, coupled with brain imaging technologies have opened the door for further discoveries, by using data integration methodologies and new study designs. Although methods have been proposed for integrating image characteristics and genetic information for studying Alzheimers, the measurement of disease is often taken at a single time point, therefore, not allowing the disease progression to be taken into consideration.

In longitudinal settings, we analyzed neuroimaging and single nucleotide polymorphism datasets obtained from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative for three clinical stages of the disease, including healthy control, early mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease subjects. We conducted a GWAS regressing the absolute change of global connectivity metrics on the genetic variants, and used the GWAS summary statistics to compute the gene and pathway scores. We observed significant associations between the change in structural brain connectivity defined by tractography and genes, which have previously been reported to biologically manipulate the risk and progression of certain neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease.