Posts Tagged ‘ genes for mental illness ’

Are There Mental Illness Genes?

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

For decades, researchers have tried to identify (with, as an overall statement, little success) the genes that contribute to a number of forms of mental illness. The idea has been to find genes that are specific to disorders. But a study suggests that some genes may predispose to a wide range of disorders.

Consider this new study which involved over 61,000 subjects. Four regions of the genome were found to increase risk for each of the following disorders: ADHD, autism, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, and schizophrenia.

Decades of family and twin studies have suggested that the genetic boundaries between forms of mental illness may not be as clear as the diagnostic categories we use. So it may not be entirely surprising that we are seeing “general” genes that may predispose to a wide range of forms of mental illness – many of which have overlapping characteristics.

To be sure, some specificity may reside in DNA that distinguishes schizophrenia from, say, ADHD. But we are at the beginning stages of sorting through the newer idea that there may also be regions of the genome that may offer either general protection against, or risk for, mental illness in general.

The etiological puzzle continues to get more complex, and more intriguing, the more we look into it. The prospect for more research to uncover interesting findings is strong. But given all this complexity, the prospect that it will lead to immediate improvements in therapeutics seems far in the distance (but then again, no one knows for sure).

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