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5 Disorders Share Genetic Risk Factors, Study Finds
New York Times: February 28, 2013

The psychiatric illnesses seem very different — schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, autism, major depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Yet they share several genetic glitches that can nudge the brain along a path to mental illness, researchers report. Which disease, if any, develops is thought to depend on other genetic or environmental factors....

...while one person with the aberration might get one disorder, a relative with the same mutation got a different one. ... “Two different diagnoses can have the same genetic risk factor...”

The new study found four DNA regions that conferred a small risk of psychiatric disorders.... two involve genes that are part of calcium channels, which are used when neurons send signals in the brain. ...
[end quote]

This research has stunning implications. A specific genetic glitch can interact with other genetic variations and with the environment to produce completely different psychoses.

The proposed Brain Activity Map (BAM) project will need to take this into account.

The complexity of BAM is much higher than the Human Genome project. The physical configuration of neurons is partly controlled by the genetic instructions and partly controlled by environment (due to neuronal plasticity).

Today's report shows that a single genetic variation, which controls a physical structure (the calcium ion channel) can interact to produce clinically distinct psychoses (and probably a spectrum of less dramatic neurological variations).

When I studied Abnormal Psychology in college (1972), autism was ascribed to "refrigerator mothers" who emotionally damaged their otherwise normal children. I argued with the professor, saying that autism was obviously caused by a biological defect -- the problem was that psychologists didn't study biology so they didn't recognize it.

In the intervening 40 years, there has been an explosion of new tools and new knowledge. This is the beginning of true understanding of the underlying reasons for the entire spectrum of mental abilities.

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