Thomas M Lancaster

Cardiff University, Cardiff, Wales, United Kingdom

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Publications (12)63.07 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: A substantial proportion of schizophrenia liability can be explained by additive genetic factors. Risk profile scores (RPS) directly index risk using a summated total of common risk variants weighted by their effect. Previous studies suggest that schizophrenia RPS predict alterations to neural networks that support working memory and verbal fluency. In this study, we apply schizophrenia RPS to fMRI data to elucidate the effects of polygenic risk on functional brain networks during a probabilistic-learning neuroimaging paradigm. The neural networks recruited during this paradigm have previously been shown to be altered to unmedicated schizophrenia patients and relatives of schizophrenia patients, which may reflect genetic susceptibility. We created schizophrenia RPS using summary data from the Psychiatric Genetic Consortium (Schizophrenia Working Group) for 83 healthy individuals and explore associations between schizophrenia RPS and blood oxygen level dependency (BOLD) during periods of choice behavior (switch-stay) and reflection upon choice outcome (reward-punishment). We show that schizophrenia RPS is associated with alterations in the frontal pole (PWHOLE-BRAIN-CORRECTED = 0.048) and the ventral striatum (PROI-CORRECTED = 0.036), during choice behavior, but not choice outcome. We suggest that the common risk variants that increase susceptibility to schizophrenia can be associated with alterations in the neural circuitry that support the processing of changing reward contingencies. Hum Brain Mapp, 2015. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
    No preview · Article · Oct 2015 · Human Brain Mapping
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    Thomas M Lancaster · Erin A Heerey · Kiran Mantripragada · David E J Linden
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    ABSTRACT: Previous studies suggest that a single nucleotide polymorphism in the COMT gene (val158met) may modulate reward-guided decision-making in healthy individuals. The polymorphism affects dopamine catabolism and thus modulates prefrontal dopamine levels, which may lead to variation in individual responses to risk and reward. We previously showed, using tasks that index reward responsiveness (measured by responses bias towards reinforced stimuli) and risk-taking (measured by the Balloon Analogue Risk Task), that COMT met homozygotes had increased reward responsiveness and thus, an increased propensity to seek reward. In the present study, we sought to replicate these effects, in a larger, independent cohort of Caucasian U.K university students and staff with similar demographic characteristics (n = 101; 54 female, mean age: 22.2 years). Similarly to our previous study, we observed a significant trial × COMT genotype interaction (P = .047; ƞ(2) = .052), which was driven by a significant effect of COMT on the incremental acquisition of response bias (response bias at block three - block one (met/met > val/val: P = .028) and block three - block two (met/met > val/val: P = .007), suggesting that COMT met homozygotes demonstrated higher levels of reward responsiveness by the end of the task. However, we failed to see main effects of COMT genotype on overall response bias or risk-seeking behaviour. These results provide additional evidence that prefrontal dopaminergic variation may have a role in reward responsiveness, but not risk-seeking behaviour. Our findings may have implications for neuropsychiatric disorders characterised by clinical deficits in reward-processing such as anhedonia. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2015 · Genes Brain and Behavior
  • T M Lancaster · S Foley · K E Tansey · D E J Linden · X Caseras
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    ABSTRACT: Genome-wide association studies suggest that genetic variation within L-type calcium channel subunits confer risk to psychosis. The single nucleotide polymorphism at rs1006737 in CACNA1C has been associated with both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and with several intermediate phenotypes that may serve as neurobiological antecedents, linking psychosis to genetic aetiology. Amongst others, it has been implicated in alterations in amygdala structure and function. In the present study, we show that the risk allele (A) is associated with increased amygdala volume in healthy individuals (n = 258). This observation reinforces a hypothesis that genetic variation may confer risk to psychosis via alterations in limbic structures. Further study of CACNA1C using intermediate phenotypes for psychosis will determine the mechanisms by which variation in this gene confers risk.
    No preview · Article · Jun 2015 · European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience
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    ABSTRACT: Increased intra-subject variability (ISV) in reaction times (RTs) is a candidate endophenotype for several psychiatric and neurological conditions, including schizophrenia. ISV reflects the degree of variability in RTs and is thought to be an index of the stability of cognition. It is generally assumed to have the same underlying physiological basis across conditions, but recent evidence raises the possibility that the neural underpinnings of ISV vary with aetiology. Combining genetics with single-trial event-related potentials is an ideal method for investigating the neural basis of ISV in groups where ISV may vary for relatively homogenous reasons. Here we examine the association between P3b latency variability and a polymorphism on the ZNF804A gene associated with psychosis. Ninety-one healthy volunteers genotyped for rs1344706, a polymorphism on ZNF804A, had electroencephalographic data recorded while carrying out three n-back tasks. Data were analysed with a single-trial approach and latency variability of the P3b was compared between the AA homozygous risk group (N=30) and C allele carriers (N=61). P3b latencies were more variable for AA carriers than C carriers. Behavioural ISV, however, was not associated with genotype. The increase in neurophysiological variability, unaccompanied by increased behavioural variability, suggests that this risk gene is associated with an attenuated form of an endophenotype associated with the psychosis phenotype. The increase in both stimulus and response-locked variability also contrasts with previous work into attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, where only response-locked P3b variability was elevated, suggesting that increased ISV may not signify the same underlying processes in all conditions with which it is associated. Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier Inc.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2015 · NeuroImage
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    ABSTRACT: Polygenic risk scores, based on risk variants identified in genome-wide-association-studies (GWAS), explain a considerable portion of the heritability for schizophrenia (SZ) and bipolar disorder (BD). However, little is known about the combined effects of these variants, although polygenic neuroimaging has developed into a powerful tool of translational neuroscience. In this study, we used genome wide significant SZ risk variants to test the predictive capacity of the polygenic model and explored potential associations with white matter volume, a key candidate in imaging phenotype for psychotic disorders. By calculating the combined additive schizophrenia risk of seven SNPs (significant hits from a recent schizophrenia GWAS study), we show that increased additive genetic risk for SZ was associated with reduced white matter volume in a group of participants (n = 94) consisting of healthy individuals, SZ first-degree relatives, SZ patients and BD patients. This effect was also seen in a second independent sample of healthy individuals (n = 89). We suggest that a moderate portion of variance (~4%) of white matter volume can be explained by the seven hits from the recent schizophrenia GWAS. These results provide evidence for associations between cumulative genetic risk for schizophrenia and intermediate neuroimaging phenotypes in models of psychosis. Our work contributes to a growing body of literature suggesting that polygenic risk may help to explain white matter alterations associated with familial risk for psychosis.
    Preview · Article · Mar 2015 · Clinical neuroimaging
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    ABSTRACT: Genome-wide association studies identify rs11136000 in the CLU gene, which codes for Apolipoprotein J/Clusterin, as a significant risk variant for Alzheimer's disease (AD). However, the mechanisms by which this variant confers susceptibility remain relatively unknown. Eighty-five healthy Caucasian participants underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging during a working memory (WM) task and were genotyped for CLU rs11136000/APOE loci. Here we show that young individuals with the CLU rs11136000 risk variant (C) have higher activation levels in memory-related prefrontal and limbic areas during a WM task. We also found subtle reductions in gray matter in the right hippocampal formation in carriers of the risk variant. We suggest that this pattern of multimodal imaging results may reflect incipient structural differences and inefficient functional activation. This study supports accumulating evidence suggesting that genetic risk for AD affects the neural networks associated with memory in healthy individuals. Copyright © 2014 The Alzheimer's Association. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
    No preview · Article · Dec 2014 · Alzheimer's & dementia: the journal of the Alzheimer's Association
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    T M Lancaster · E A Heerey · K Mantripragada · D E J Linden
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    ABSTRACT: The variant at rs1006737 in the L-type voltage-gated calcium channel (alpha 1c subunit) CACNA1C gene is reliably associated with both bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. We investigated whether this risk variant affects reward responsiveness because reward processing is one of the central cognitive-motivational domains implicated in both disorders. In a sample of 164 young, healthy individuals, we show a dose-dependent response, where the rs1006737 risk genotype was associated with blunted reward responsiveness, whereas discriminability did not significantly differ between genotype groups. This finding suggests that the CACNA1C risk locus may have a role in neural pathways that facilitate value representation for rewarding stimuli. Impaired reward processing may be a transdiagnostic phenotype of variation in CACNA1C that could contribute to anhedonia and other clinical features common to both affective and psychotic disorders.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2014 · Translational Psychiatry
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    ABSTRACT: Intra-subject variability in reaction times (ISV) is a promising endophenotype for several psychiatric conditions, but its neural underpinnings are not yet established. Converging evidence from neuroimaging, molecular genetics, and psychopharmacology suggest that ISV could index catecholaminergically-mediated neural noise. The fine-grained temporal resolution of electroencephalography is ideal for investigating ISV, but only if potential neural correlates of ISV can be assessed in single trials. Based on evidence that ISV is associated with dopaminergic functioning, we apply a recently developed method of single-trial P3b analysis to investigate the association of COMT Val(158)Met genotype with measures of ISV on the behavioural and neural levels at different working memory loads. Greater number of Met alleles was associated with poorer and more intra-individually variable performance on the tasks, and greater latency jitter in single-trial P3bs. These converging results at the behavioural and neurophysiological levels confirm previous observations that prefrontal dopamine availability is associated with stability and accuracy of cognitive performance. Together with previous studies, these data imply pleiotropic cognitive effects of COMT genotype.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2014 · NeuroImage
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    ABSTRACT: Variation in the CACNA1C gene has consistently been associated with psychosis in genome wide association studies. We have previously shown in a sample of n=110 healthy subjects that carriers of the CACNA1C rs1006737 risk variant exhibit hippocampal and perigenual anterior cingulate dysfunction (pgACC) during episodic memory recall. Here, we aimed to replicate our results, by testing for the effects of the rs1006737 risk variant in a new large cohort of healthy controls. We furthermore sought to refine these results by identifying the impact of a CACNA1C specific, gene-wide risk score in the absence of clinical pathology. An independent sample of 179 healthy subjects genotyped for rs1006737 underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while performing an associative episodic memory task and underwent psychological testing similar to the discovery sample. The effect of gene-wide risk scores was analysed in the combined sample of 289 subjects. We replicated our discovery findings of hippocampal and pgACC dysfunction in carriers of the rs1006737 risk variant. Additionally, we observed diminished activation of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, in the replication sample. Our replicated results as well as this new effect were also observable in the combined sample. Moreover, the same systems-level phenotypes were significantly associated with the individual gene-based genetic risk score. Our findings suggest that altered hippocampal and frontolimbic function is associated with variants in the CACNA1C gene. Since CACNA1C variants have been associated repeatedly with psychosis at a genome-wide level, and preclinical data provide convergent evidence for the relevance of the CACNA1C gene for hippocampal and frontolimbic plasticity and adaptive regulation of stress, our data suggest a potential pathophysiological mechanism conferred by CACNA1C variants that may mediate risk for symptom dimensions shared among bipolar disorder, major depression, and schizophrenia.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2014 · NeuroImage
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    ABSTRACT: Background: Genetic susceptibility to schizophrenia (SZ) has been suggested to influence the cortical systems supporting working memory (WM) and face processing. Genetic imaging studies link the SZ risk variant rs1344706 on the ZNF804A gene to psychosis via alterations in functional brain connectivity during WM, but no work has looked at the effects of ZNF804A on WM with face-processing components. Methods: We therefore investigated healthy controls that were genotyped for rs1344706 with a face WM task during functional magnetic resonance imaging. We suggested that variation at the rs1344706 locus would be associated with similar alterations as patients previously tested using the same WM task for faces. Results: The rs1344706 risk allele was indeed associated with altered activation in the right dorsolateral prefrontal (rDLPFC) cortex. We established that the rDLPFC was activated in a task-dependent manner, suggesting that the differences in activation between rs1344706 genotype groups reflected alterations in task processing. Furthermore, we demonstrated that the rDLPFC region showed significant volumetric overlap with the rDLPFC which had previously been reported to be altered during task processing for patients with SZ. Conclusions: The findings support an association between rs1344706 and alterations in DLPFC activity during WM for faces. We further suggest that WM for faces may be a useful intermediate phenotype in the investigation of genetic susceptibility to psychosis.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2013 · Neuropsychobiology
  • T M Lancaster · D E Linden · EA Heerey
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    ABSTRACT: A functional variant of the catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) gene [val158met (rs4680)] is frequently implicated in decision-making and higher cognitive functions. It may achieve its effects by modulating dopamine-related decision-making and reward-guided behaviour. Here we demonstrate that individuals with the met/met polymorphism have greater responsiveness to reward than carriers of the val allele and that this correlates with risk-seeking behaviour. We assessed performance on a reward responsiveness task and the Balloon analogue risk task, which measure how participants (N = 70, western European, university and postgraduate students) respond to reward and take risks in the presence of available reward. Individuals with the met/met genotype (n = 19) showed significantly higher reward responsiveness, F(2,64)  = 4.02, P = 0.02, and reward-seeking behaviour, F(2,68) = 4.52, P = 0.01, than did either val/met (n = 25) or val/val (n = 26) carriers. These results highlight a scenario in which genotype-dependent reward responsiveness shapes reward-seeking, therefore suggesting a novel framework by which COMT may modulate behaviour.
    No preview · Article · Aug 2012 · Genes Brain and Behavior
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    ABSTRACT: Recent GWAS identified a risk variant for Alzheimer's disease (AD) at a locus (rs11136000) of the clusterin gene (CLU). Here we use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during working memory to probe the effect of the risk variant on brain activation in healthy individuals. Participants with the CLU risk genotype had higher activity than participants with the protective allele in frontal and posterior cingulate cortex and the hippocampus, particularly during high memory demand. These results inform pathophysiological models of the preclinical progression of AD.
    No preview · Article · Mar 2011 · European neuropsychopharmacology: the journal of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology

Publication Stats

67 Citations
63.07 Total Impact Points


  • 2014-2015
    • Cardiff University
      • MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics & Genomics
      Cardiff, Wales, United Kingdom
    • University of South Wales
      Понтиприте, Wales, United Kingdom
  • 2011-2013
    • Bangor University
      • • School of Psychology
      • • School of Medical Sciences
      Бангор, Wales, United Kingdom