Mega-analysis of brain structural covariance, genetics, and clinical phenotypes


Normal and pathologic neurobiological processes influence brain morphology in coordinated ways that give rise to structural covariance patterns across brain regions and individuals. We present a mega-analysis of structural covariance with magnetic resonance imaging of 50,699 healthy and diseased individuals (12 studies, 130 sites, and 12 countries) over their lifespan (ages 5 through 97). Patterns of structural covariance (PSC) were highly heritable (0.05< h2 <0.78) and significantly associated with 1610 independent significant variants after Bonferroni correction (10.3 > -log10p-value > 8.8): 1245 previously unreported, and 69% of them independently replicated (-log10p-value = 4.5). Associations revealed an imaging phenotypic landscape between 2003 PSCs and 49 clinical and cognitive traits at multiple scales. We constructed machine learning-derived individualized imaging signatures for various disease diagnoses using PSC features at multiple scales, suggesting that disease effects on the brain were better manifested in a multi-scale continuum than on any single scale. Experimental results were integrated into the Multi-scale Structural Imaging Covariance (MuSIC) atlas and made publicly accessible through the BRIDGEPORT web portal ( Our results reveal strong associations between brain structural covariance, genetics, and clinical phenotypes, supporting that PSCs can serve as an endophenotypic anatomic dictionary in future research.

Under review