Val66Met, a naturally occurring polymorphism in the human brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) gene resulting in a valine (Val) to methionine (Met) substitution at codon 66, plays an important role in neuroplasticity. While the effect of the BDNF Val66Met polymorphism on local brain structures has previously been examined, its impact on the configuration of the graph-based white matter structural networks is yet to be investigated. In the current study, we assessed the effect of the BDNF polymorphism on the network properties and robustness of the graph-based white matter structural networks. Graph theory was employed to investigate the structural connectivity derived from white matter tractography in two groups, Val homozygotes (n = 18) and Met-allele carriers (n = 55). Although there were no differences in the global network measures including global efficiency, local efficiency, and modularity between the two genotype groups, we found the effect of the BDNF Val66Met polymorphism on the robustness properties of the white matter structural networks. Specifically, the white matter structural networks of the Met-allele carrier group showed higher vulnerability to targeted removal of central nodes as compared with those of the Val homozygote group. These findings suggest that the central role of the BDNF Val66Met polymorphism in regards to neuroplasticity may be associated with inherent differences in the robustness of the white matter structural network according to the genetic variants. Furthermore, greater susceptibility to brain disorders in Met-allele carriers may be understood as being due to their limited stability in white matter structural connectivity.
- BDNF Val66Met
- Diffusion tensor imaging
- Network resilience
- White matter structural network