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Transl Psychiatry. 2018 Mar 12;8(1):35. doi: 10.1038/s41398-017-0082-6.

Genome-wide analyses of self-reported empathy: correlations with autism, schizophrenia, and anorexia nervosa.

Author information

1
Department of Psychiatry, Autism Research Centre, University of Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, UK. vw260@medschl.cam.ac.uk.
2
Human Genetics and Cognitive Functions Unit, Institut Pasteur, Paris, France.
3
CNRS UMR 3571: Genes, Synapses and Cognition, Institut Pasteur, Paris, France.
4
Human Genetics and Cognitive Functions, Université Paris Didero, Sorbonne Paris Cité, Paris, France.
5
Department of Psychiatry, Autism Research Centre, University of Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, UK.
6
Centre for Autism, School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences, University of Reading, Reading, UK.
7
The Lundbeck Foundation Initiative for Integrative Psychiatric Research, iPSYCH, Aarhus, Denmark.
8
Centre for Integrative Sequencing, iSEQ, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark.
9
Department of Biomedicine-Human Genetics, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark.
10
Bioinformatics Research Centre, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark.
11
23andMe, Inc., Mountain View, CA, 94041, USA.
12
Department of Psychiatry, Autism Research Centre, University of Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, UK. sb205@cam.ac.uk.
13
Department of Biomedicine-Human Genetics, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark. sb205@cam.ac.uk.
14
CLASS Clinic, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT), Cambridgeshire, UK. sb205@cam.ac.uk.

Abstract

Empathy is the ability to recognize and respond to the emotional states of other individuals. It is an important psychological process that facilitates navigating social interactions and maintaining relationships, which are important for well-being. Several psychological studies have identified difficulties in both self-report and performance-based measures of empathy in a range of psychiatric conditions. To date, no study has systematically investigated the genetic architecture of empathy using genome-wide association studies (GWAS). Here we report the results of the largest GWAS of empathy to date using a well-validated self-report measure of empathy, the Empathy Quotient (EQ), in 46,861 research participants from 23andMe, Inc. We identify 11 suggestive loci (P < 1 × 10-6), though none were significant at P < 2.5 × 10-8 after correcting for multiple testing. The most significant SNP was identified in the non-stratified analysis (rs4882760; P = 4.29 × 10-8), and is an intronic SNP in TMEM132C. The EQ had a modest but significant narrow-sense heritability (0.11 ± 0.014; P = 1.7 × 10-14). As predicted, based on earlier work, we confirmed a significant female advantage on the EQ (P < 2 × 10-16, Cohen's d = 0.65). We identified similar SNP heritability and high genetic correlation between the sexes. Also, as predicted, we identified a significant negative genetic correlation between autism and the EQ (rg = -0.27 ± 0.07, P = 1.63 × 10-4). We also identified a significant positive genetic correlation between the EQ and risk for schizophrenia (rg = 0.19 ± 0.04; P = 1.36 × 10-5), risk for anorexia nervosa (rg = 0.32 ± 0.09; P = 6 × 10-4), and extraversion (rg = 0.45 ± 0.08; 5.7 × 10-8). 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.

PMID:
29527006
PMCID:
PMC5845860
DOI:
10.1038/s41398-017-0082-6
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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