Covariation of preadult environmental exposures, adult brain imaging phenotypes, and adult personality traits

Molecular psychiatry

Mol Psychiatry. 2023 Sep 22. doi: 10.1038/s41380-023-02261-2. Online ahead of print.


Exposure to preadult environmental exposures may have long-lasting effects on mental health by affecting the maturation of the brain and personality, two traits that interact throughout the developmental process. However, environment-brain-personality covariation patterns and their mediation relationships remain unclear. In 4297 healthy participants (aged 18-30 years), we combined sparse multiple canonical correlation analysis with independent component analysis to identify the three-way covariation patterns of 59 preadult environmental exposures, 760 adult brain imaging phenotypes, and five personality traits, and found two robust environment-brain-personality covariation models with sex specificity. One model linked greater stress and less support to weaker functional connectivity and activity in the default mode network, stronger activity in subcortical nuclei, greater thickness and volume in the occipital, parietal and temporal cortices, and lower agreeableness, consciousness and extraversion as well as higher neuroticism. The other model linked higher urbanicity and better socioeconomic status to stronger functional connectivity and activity in the sensorimotor network, smaller volume and surface area and weaker functional connectivity and activity in the medial prefrontal cortex, lower white matter integrity, and higher openness to experience. We also conducted mediation analyses to explore the potential bidirectional mediation relationships between adult brain imaging phenotypes and personality traits with the influence of preadult environmental exposures and found both environment-brain-personality and environment-personality-brain pathways. We finally performed moderated mediation analyses to test the potential interactions between macro- and microenvironmental exposures and found that one category of exposure moderated the mediation pathways of another category of exposure. These results improve our understanding of the effects of preadult environmental exposures on the adult brain and personality traits and may facilitate the design of targeted interventions to improve mental health by reducing the impact of adverse environmental exposures.

PMID:37737484 | DOI:10.1038/s41380-023-02261-2