Unraveling the shared genetics of common epilepsies and general cognitive ability

medRxiv [Preprint]. 2024 Mar 26:2024.03.25.24304773. doi: 10.1101/2024.03.25.24304773.


Objective: Cognitive impairment is prevalent among individuals with epilepsy, and it is possible that genetic factors can underlie this relationship. Here, we investigated the potential shared genetic basis of common epilepsies and general cognitive ability (COG).

Methods: We applied linkage disequilibrium score (LDSC) regression, MiXeR and conjunctional false discovery rate (conjFDR) to analyze different aspects of genetic overlap between COG and epilepsies. We used the largest available genome-wide association study data on COG (n = 269,867) and common epilepsies (n = 27,559 cases, 42,436 controls), including the broad phenotypes 'all epilepsy', focal epilepsies and genetic generalized epilepsies (GGE), and as well as specific subtypes. We functionally annotated the identified loci using a variety of biological resources and validated the results in independent samples.

Results: Using MiXeR, COG (11.2k variants) was estimated to be almost four times more polygenic than 'all epilepsy', GGE, juvenile myoclonic epilepsy (JME), and childhood absence epilepsy (CAE) (2.5k - 2.9k variants). The other epilepsy phenotypes were insufficiently powered for analysis. We show extensive genetic overlap between COG and epilepsies with significant negative genetic correlations (-0.23 to -0.04). COG was estimated to share 2.9k variants with both GGE and 'all epilepsy', and 2.3k variants with both JME and CAE. Using conjFDR, we identified 66 distinct loci shared between COG and epilepsies, including novel associations for GGE (27), 'all epilepsy' (5), JME (5) and CAE (5). The implicated genes were significantly expressed in multiple brain regions. The results were validated in independent samples (COG: p = 1.0 × 10-14; 'all epilepsy': p = 5.6 × 10-3).

Significance: Our study demonstrates a substantial genetic basis shared between epilepsies and COG and identifies novel overlapping genomic loci. Enhancing our understanding of the relationship between epilepsies and COG may lead to the development of novel comorbidity-targeted epilepsy treatments.

Publication types

  • Preprint