AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 26, Number 2, 2017

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Researchers Find Brain Differences Between People with Genetic Risk for Schizophrenia, Autism

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A UCLA study characterizes, for the first time, brain differences between people with a specific genetic risk for schizophrenia and those at risk for autism, and the findings could help explain the biological underpinnings of these neuropsychiatric disorders.The research sheds light on how an excess, or absence, of genetic material on a particular chromosome affects neural development. “Notably, the opposing anatomical patterns we observed were most prominent in brain regions important for social functioning,” said Carrie Bearden, lead author of the study and a professor of professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences, and of psychology, at UCLA. “These findings provide clues into differences in brain development that may predispose to schizophrenia or autism.” Bearden’s earlier research had focused on children with abnormalities caused by missing sections of genetic material on chromosome 22, in a location known as 22q11.2. The disorder, called 22q11.2-deletion syndrome, can cause developmental delays, heart defects and distinct facial features. It also confers the highest-known genetic risk for schizophrenia.

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