No evidence of association between childhood urban environment and cortical thinning in psychotic disorder

Aleida Frissen, Jim Van Os, Petra Habets, Ed Gronenschild, Machteld Marcelis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


MarcelisAbstract Background The alterations in cortical morphology, such as cortical thinning, observed in psychotic disorder, may be the outcome of interacting genetic and environmental effects. It has been suggested that urban upbringing may represent a proxy environmental effect impacting cortical thickness (CT). Therefore, the current study examined whether the association between group as a proxy genetic variable (patients with psychotic disorder [high genetic risk], healthy siblings of patients [intermediate risk] and healthy control subjects [average risk]) and CT was conditional on different levels of the childhood urban environment and whether this was sex-dependent. Methods T1-weighted MRI scans were acquired from 89 patients with a psychotic disorder, 95 nonpsychotic siblings of patients with psychotic disorder and 87 healthy control subjects. Freesurfer software was used to measure CT. Developmental urban exposure was classified as low, medium, and high, reflecting the population density and the number of moves between birth and the 15th birthday, using data from the Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics and the equivalent database in Belgium. Multilevel regression analyses were used to examine the association between group, sex, and urban upbringing (as well as their interactions) and cortical CT as the dependent variable. Results CT was significantly smaller in the patient group compared to the controls (B = -0.043, p <0.001), but not in the siblings compared to the controls (B = -0.013, p = 0.31). There was no main effect of developmental urbanicity on CT (B = 0.001, p = 0.91). Neither the threeway group × urbanicity × sex interaction (x2 = 3.73, p = 0.16), nor the two-way group × urbanicity interaction was significant (x2 = 0.51, p = 0.77).association between (familial risk for) psychotic disorder and CT was not moderated by developmental urbanicity, suggesting that reduced CT is not the outcome of familial sensitivity to the proxy environmental factor urban upbringing'.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberC11029
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2017
Externally publishedYes


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