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Neurological and psychiatric illnesses are associated with regional brain deficit patterns that bear unique signatures and capture illness-specific characteristics. The Regional Vulnerability Index (RVI) was developed toquantify brain similarity by comparing individual white matter microstructure, cortical gray matter thickness and subcortical gray matter structural volume measures with neuroanatomical deficit patterns derived from large-scale meta-analytic studies. We tested the specificity of the RVI approach for major depressive disorder (MDD) and Alzheimer's disease (AD) in a large epidemiological sample of UK Biobank (UKBB) participants (N = 19,393; 9138 M/10,255F; age = 64.8 ± 7.4 years). Compared to controls free of neuropsychiatric disorders, participants with MDD (N = 2,248; 805 M/1443F; age = 63.4 ± 7.4) had significantly higher RVI-MDD values (t = 5.6, p = 1·10-8), but showed no detectable difference in RVI-AD (t = 2.0, p = 0.10). Subjects with dementia (N = 7; 4 M/3F; age = 68.6 ± 8.6 years) showed significant elevation in RVI-AD (t = 4.2, p = 3·10-5) but not RVI-MDD (t = 2.1, p = 0.10) compared to controls. Even within affective illnesses, participants with bipolar disorder (N = 54) and anxiety disorder (N = 773) showed no significant elevation in whole-brain RVI-MDD. Participants with Parkinson's disease (N = 37) showed elevation in RVI-AD (t = 2.4, p = 0.01) while subjects with stroke (N = 247) showed no such elevation (t = 1.1, p = 0.3). In summary, we demonstrated elevation in RVI-MDD and RVI-AD measures in the respective illnesses with strong replicability that is relatively specific to the respective diagnoses. These neuroanatomic deviation patterns offer a useful biomarker for population-wide assessments of similarity to neuropsychiatric illnesses.

Original publication




Journal article


NeuroImage. Clinical

Publication Date





Maryland Psychiatric Research Center, Department of Psychiatry, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA. Electronic address:


Brain, Humans, Alzheimer Disease, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Depressive Disorder, Major, Aged, Middle Aged, Big Data