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BACKGROUND: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a disease of the motor network associated with brain structure and functional connectivity alterations that are implicated in disease progression. Whether such changes have a causal role in ALS, fitting with a postulated influence of premorbid cerebral architecture on the phenotypes associated with neurodegenerative disorders is not known. METHODS: This study considered causal effects and shared genetic risk of 2240 structural and functional MRI brain scan imaging-derived phenotypes (IDPs) on ALS using two sample Mendelian randomisation, with putative associations further examined with extensive sensitivity analysis. Shared genetic predisposition between IDPs and ALS was explored using genetic correlation analysis. RESULTS: Increased white matter volume in the cerebral hemispheres was causally associated with ALS. Weaker causal associations were observed for brain stem grey matter volume, parieto-occipital white matter surface and volume of the left thalamic ventral anterior nucleus. Genetic correlation was observed between ALS and intracellular volume fraction and isotropic free water volume fraction within the posterior limb of the internal capsule. CONCLUSIONS: This study provides evidence that premorbid brain structure, in particular white matter volume, contributes to the risk of ALS.

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Journal article


J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry

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