Corticolimbic DCC gene co-expression networks as predictors of impulsivity in children

Mol Psychiatry. 2022 Jun;27(6):2742-2750. doi: 10.1038/s41380-022-01533-7. Epub 2022 Apr 7.


Inhibitory control deficits are prevalent in multiple neuropsychiatric conditions. The communication- as well as the connectivity- between corticolimbic regions of the brain are fundamental for eliciting inhibitory control behaviors, but early markers of vulnerability to this behavioral trait are yet to be discovered. The gradual maturation of the prefrontal cortex (PFC), in particular of the mesocortical dopamine innervation, mirrors the protracted development of inhibitory control; both are present early in life, but reach full maturation by early adulthood. Evidence suggests the involvement of the Netrin-1/DCC signaling pathway and its associated gene networks in corticolimbic development. Here we investigated whether an expression-based polygenic score (ePRS) based on corticolimbic-specific DCC gene co-expression networks associates with impulsivity-related phenotypes in community samples of children. We found that lower ePRS scores associate with higher measurements of impulsive choice in 6-year-old children tested in the Information Sampling Task and with impulsive action in 6- and 10-year-old children tested in the Stop Signal Task. We also found the ePRS to be a better overall predictor of impulsivity when compared to a conventional PRS score comparable in size to the ePRS (4515 SNPs in our discovery cohort) and derived from the latest GWAS for ADHD. We propose that the corticolimbic DCC-ePRS can serve as a novel type of marker for impulsivity-related phenotypes in children. By adopting a systems biology approach based on gene co-expression networks and genotype-gene expression (rather than genotype-disease) associations, these results further validate our methodology to construct polygenic scores linked to the overall biological function of tissue-specific gene networks.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • DCC Receptor / genetics
  • DCC Receptor / metabolism
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Gene Regulatory Networks* / genetics
  • Genes, DCC*
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior
  • Prefrontal Cortex / metabolism


  • DCC Receptor
  • DCC protein, human
  • Dopamine