Genomic analysis of the natural history of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder using Neanderthal and ancient Homo sapiens samples
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is an impairing neurodevelopmental condition highly prevalent in current populations. Several hypotheses have been proposed to explain this paradox, mainly in the context of the Paleolithic versus Neolithic cultural shift but especially within the framework of the mismatch theory. This theory elaborates on how a particular trait once favoured in an ancient environment might become maladaptive upon environmental changes. However, given the lack of genomic data available for ADHD, these theories have not been empirically tested. We took advantage of the largest GWAS meta-analysis available for this disorder consisting of over 20,000 individuals diagnosed with ADHD and 35,000 controls, to assess the evolution of ADHD-associated alleles in European populations using archaic, ancient and modern human samples. We also included Approximate Bayesian computation coupled with deep learning analyses and singleton density scores to detect human adaptation. Our analyses indicate that ADHD-associated alleles are enriched in loss of function intolerant genes, supporting the role of selective pressures in this early-onset phenotype. Furthermore, we observed that the frequency of variants associated with ADHD has steadily decreased since Paleolithic times, particularly in Paleolithic European populations compared to samples from the Neolithic Fertile Crescent. We demonstrate this trend cannot be explained by African admixture nor Neanderthal introgression, since introgressed Neanderthal alleles are enriched in ADHD risk variants. All analyses performed support the presence of long-standing selective pressures acting against ADHD-associated alleles until recent times. Overall, our results are compatible with the mismatch theory for ADHD but suggest a much older time frame for the evolution of ADHD-associated alleles compared to previous hypotheses.