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A drawing of a brain with one side colourful and the other side black and white

Could your genes cause mental health problems?

February 9th, 2018

Schizophrenia, autism and bipolar disorder all seem to have similar effects on the brain. Researchers have analysed post-mortem brains of hundreds of people with schizophrenia, bipolar, autism and alcoholism as well as healthy controls, to learn how gene expression develops within diseased brains.

David Amaral, the director of research at the Neurodevelopment Disorders institute at the University of California says, “There has always been debate about the defining characteristics of psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and autism”. Amaral was not involved in this study, but said “The fact that there is some genetic signature overlap between the disorders indicates that the ambiguity is justified.”

Daniel Geschwind a neurologist from the University of California, who led the work, wanted to determine the molecular signs for psychiatric disorders. His study reveals common patterns of differential gene expression among the brains of people who had autism, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder. Yet other mutual commonalities emerged among the brain transcriptomes from patients with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or depression.

The researchers discovered correspondence between a differential expression of genes and the possession of particular single nucleotide polymorphisms, suggesting that these transcriptome changes have a genetic basis.

Amaral states, “This study emphasizes that to understand the genetic architecture of psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and autism, we will need to study the brains of the affected individuals. I believe  that this type of research is the fastest route to developing targeted treatments for these disorders”.

A remarkable study, if you’re interested to find out more you can read this study in full detail by following the link below.

Further Reading
M.J. Gandal et al. “Shared molecular neuropathology across major psychiatric disorders parallels polygenic overlap,” Science, doi:10.1126/science.aad6469, 2018.:



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