More brain mutations means higher risk for schizophrenia

It's already been established in the medical community that brain mutations have a link to mental illnesses, like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

But in a large-scale study from researchers at Columbia University Medical Center, we now have a better understanding of just how critical these mutations can be in increasing one's risk for developing schizophrenia. Dozens of new spontaneous genetic mutations were discovered, many of which happened during fetal development.

The role of a mother's health

The findings indicate that factors like a mother's nutrition during pregnancy and her overall health can directly contribute to the presence and development of mental illness in her offspring.

“Our findings provide a mechanism that could explain how prenatal environmental insults during the first and second trimester of pregnancy increase one’s risk for schizophrenia,” said Dr. Maria Karayiorgou, professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center and lead study author.

A link to childhood problems

According to Karayiorgou, patients who exhibited the newly discovered mutations were more likely to suffer from childhood anxieties, phobias and behavioral issues. The study included 231 sets of a child and either one or both of his parents. Neither the children nor the parents were afflicted by schizophrenia.

Researchers note that while dozens of mutations may be responsible for the complex matrix that predisposes a person to schizophrenia, the new findings can help them piece together a clearer picture of what may be happening in the brain of a schizophrenic early in life.

“Although the genetics of schizophrenia are extremely complex, a coherent picture of the disease is beginning to emerge,” said Dr. Joseph Gogos, co-author of the study.

The study was published online in the journal Nature Genetics

Source: Psych Central

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