Genetic Variations Associated With Empathy Affect Psychiatric Conditions

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Genetic variations linked with empathy affect psychiatric traits such as schizophrenia, anorexia nervosa, and extraversion.
Genetic variations linked with empathy affect psychiatric traits such as schizophrenia, anorexia nervosa, and extraversion.

HealthDay News — Genetic variations associated with empathy play a role in psychiatric conditions and traits, including schizophrenia, anorexia nervosa, and extraversion, according to a study published online in Translational Psychiatry.

Varun Warrier, from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, and colleagues conducted the largest genome-wide association study (GWAS) of empathy to date using the well-validated self-reported Empathy Quotient (EQ). Data were included for 46,861 research participants from 23andMe, Inc.

The researchers identified 11 suggestive loci (P < 1 × 10−6), although after correction for multiple testing, none were significant at P < 2.5 × 10−8. The most significant small nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), an intronic SNP in TMEM132C (rs4882760), was identified in the non-stratified analysis. A modest but significant narrow-sense heritability was found for the EQ. A significant female advantage on the EQ, predicted in earlier work, was confirmed. Between the sexes there was similar SNP heritability and high genetic correlation. There was also a significant negative genetic correlation between autism and EQ, as predicted. A significant positive genetic correlation was identified between the EQ and risk for schizophrenia, risk for anorexia nervosa, and extraversion.

"This is the first GWAS of self-reported empathy. The results suggest that the genetic variations associated with empathy also play a role in psychiatric conditions and psychological traits," the authors write.

One author is an employee of 23andMe, Inc.

Reference

Warrier V, Toro R, Chakrabarti B, et al. Genome-wide analyses of self-reported empathy: correlations with autism, schizophrenia, and anorexia nervosa. Transl Psychiatry. 2018;8(1):35. 



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