Obesity is a chronic metabolic disorder that may also lead to reduced white matter integrity, potentially due to shared genetic risk factors. Genetic correlation analyses were conducted in a large cohort of Mexican American families in San Antonio (N = 761, 58% females, ages 18-81 years; 41.3 ± 14.5) from the Genetics of Brain Structure and Function Study. Shared genetic variance was calculated between measures of adiposity [(body mass index (BMI; kg/m(2)) and waist circumference (WC; in)] and whole-brain and regional measurements of cerebral white matter integrity (fractional anisotropy). Whole-brain average and regional fractional anisotropy values for 10 major white matter tracts were calculated from high angular resolution diffusion tensor imaging data (DTI; 1.7 × 1.7 × 3 mm; 55 directions). Additive genetic factors explained intersubject variance in BMI (heritability, h (2) = 0.58), WC (h (2) = 0.57), and FA (h (2) = 0.49). FA shared significant portions of genetic variance with BMI in the genu (ρG = -0.25), body (ρG = -0.30), and splenium (ρG = -0.26) of the corpus callosum, internal capsule (ρG = -0.29), and thalamic radiation (ρG = -0.31) (all p's = 0.043). The strongest evidence of shared variance was between BMI/WC and FA in the superior fronto-occipital fasciculus (ρG = -0.39, p = 0.020; ρG = -0.39, p = 0.030), which highlights region-specific variation in neural correlates of obesity. This may suggest that increase in obesity and reduced white matter integrity share common genetic risk factors.
Keywords: Mexican American; diffusion tensor imaging; fractional anisotropy; genetics; genotype; obesity; white matter.