Pervasively thinner neocortex as a transdiagnostic feature of general psychopathology

Journal Article


Neuroimaging research has revealed that structural brain alterations are common across broad diagnostic families of disorders rather than specific to a single psychiatric disorder. Such overlap in the structural brain correlates of mental disorders mirrors already well-documented phenotypic comorbidity of psychiatric symptoms and diagnoses, which can be indexed by a general psychopathology or p factor. We hypothesized that if general psychopathology drives the convergence of structural alterations common across disorders then 1) there should be few associations unique to any one diagnostic family of disorders, and 2) associations with the p factor should overlap with those for the broader diagnostic families.


Analyses were conducted on structural MRI and psychopathology data collected from 861 members of the population representative Dunedin Study at age 45.


Study members with high scores across three broad diagnostic families of disorders (Externalizing, Internalizing, Thought Disorder) exhibited highly overlapping patterns of reduced global and widely distributed parcel-wise neocortical thickness. Study members with high p factor scores exhibited patterns of reduced global and parcel-wise neocortical thickness nearly identical to those associated with the three broad diagnostic families.


A pattern of pervasively reduced neocortical thickness appears common across all forms of mental disorders and may represent a transdiagnostic feature of general psychopathology. As has been documented with regard to symptoms and diagnoses, the underlying brain structural correlates of mental disorders may not exhibit specificity, the continued pursuit of which may limit progress toward more effective strategies for etiological understanding, prevention, and intervention.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Romer, A; Elliott, M; Knodt, A; Sison, M; Ireland, D; Houts, R; Ramrakha, S; Poulton, R; Keenan, R; Melzer, T; Moffitt, T; Caspi, A; Hariri, A

Published Date

  • September 30, 2019

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1101/788232