Monday, May 13th, 2013
Women who contract the flu virus during pregnancy may have children who are born with a higher risk of developing a bipolar disorder, a new study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry has found. More from CBS News:
“These findings may have implications for prevention and identification of pathogenic mechanisms that lead to” bipolar disorder, concluded the researchers, led by Dr. Alan Brown, a professor of clinical psychiatry and epidemiology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City.
Researchers studied a pool of more than 900 U.S. children. More than 200 had been enrolled in the Child Health and Development Study, which tracked kids born between 1950 and 1966. The remaining 700 participants were controls matched by age and gender, obtained from county health databases.
The researchers found 92 cases of bipolar disorder out of the entire participant pool. After combing through data, their analysis revealed having flu during pregnancy was tied to a four-fold risk increase that offspring would develop bipolar disorder by the time they became adults.
The study was published May 8 in JAMA Psychiatry.
Bipolar disorder is characterized by ups and downs that are more extreme than a person typically experiences. It often develops in a person in their late teens or early 20s, though some people may experience symptoms in childhood, notes the National Institute of Mental Health.
Image: Pregnant belly, via Shutterstock
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Friday, March 1st, 2013
Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) may share genetic codes with mental illnesses including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, major depression, and schizophrenia, according to new research published this week in the journal The Lancet. The New York Times has more:
[The study] was based on an examination of genetic data from more than 60,000 people world-wide. Its authors say it is the largest genetic study yet of psychiatric disorders. The findings strengthen an emerging view of mental illness that aims to make diagnoses based on the genetic aberrations underlying diseases instead of on the disease symptoms.
Two of the aberrations discovered in the new study were in genes used in a major signaling system in the brain, giving clues to processes that might go awry and suggestions of how to treat the diseases.
“What we identified here is probably just the tip of an iceberg,” said Dr. Jordan Smoller, lead author of the paper and a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. “As these studies grow we expect to find additional genes that might overlap.”
The new study does not mean that the genetics of psychiatric disorders are simple. Researchers say there seem to be hundreds of genes involved and the gene variations discovered in the new study only confer a small risk of psychiatric disease.
Steven McCarroll, director of genetics for the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute of Harvard and M.I.T., said it was significant that the researchers had found common genetic factors that pointed to a specific signaling system.
“It is very important that these were not just random hits on the dartboard of the genome,” said Dr. McCarroll, who was not involved in the new study.
Image: Genetic markers, via Shutterstock
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Monday, June 4th, 2012
A study published in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry has found that premature babies who are born at fewer than 32 weeks of gestation have a higher risk of suffering from mental illnesses later in life, including psychosis, bipolar disorder, and depression. From Reuters:
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Scientists in Britain and Sweden found that people born very prematurely – at less than 32 weeks’ gestation – were three times more likely than those born at term to be hospitalized with a psychiatric illness at aged 16 and older.
The researchers think the increased risk may be down to small but important differences in brain development in babies born before the a full 40 week gestation period.
The risk varied depending on the condition – psychosis was 2.5 times more likely for premature babies, severe depression 3 times more likely, and bipolar disorder 7.4 times more likely for those born before 32 weeks.
The study, to be published in the Archives of General Psychiatry journal, also found smaller but significant increased psychiatric risks for babies born only moderately early, at between 32 and 36 weeks.