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Transl Psychiatry. 2018 Jan 10;8(1):2. doi: 10.1038/s41398-017-0086-2.

Loneliness 5 years ante-mortem is associated with disease-related differential gene expression in postmortem dorsolateral prefrontal cortex.

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Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY, USA.
Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center, Department of Neurological Sciences, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, IL, USA.
Biostatistics Department, Yale School of Public Health, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA.
Department of Neurology, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA.


Subjective social isolation, loneliness, is associated with poor mental and physical health, but the underlying molecular mechanisms are poorly understood. Here we analyzed loneliness data collected on average 5 years ante-mortem and RNA gene expression at death in postmortem dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) from 181 participants in the Rush Memory and Aging Project (MAP), a longitudinal, prospective cohort study of common chronic conditions of aging. Our analytic protocol controlled for biographical variables (age, sex, education), psychological and health variables (depressive symptoms, interval between assessment and autopsy, slope of cognitive decline, AD pathology, presence of infarcts) and RNA integrity. Our results are based on a pre-ranked Gene Set Enrichment Analysis (GSEA) at FDR-corrected q-values <0.05, using these collections from the Molecular Signatures Database (v6.0 MSigDB): (1) Hallmarks, (2) Canonical, (3) Gene Ontology (GO), (4) Chemical and Genetic Perturbations, (5) Immunologic Signatures, (6) Oncogenic Signatures, and (7) Cancer Modules. We now report on 337 up-regulated and 43 down-regulated gene sets, among which the most significant ones were associated with Alzheimer's disease, psychiatric illness, immune dysfunction, and cancer. These gene sets constitute attractive targets for future studies into the molecular mechanisms by which loneliness exacerbates a wide range of neurodegenerative, psychiatric, and somatic illnesses.

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