John Csernansky wants to take your measurements. Not the circumference of your chest, waist and hips. No, this doctor wants to stretch a tape measure around your hippocampus, thalamus and prefrontal cortex. OK, maybe not literally a tape measure, but he does want to chart the dimensions of the many structures in the human brain. From those measurements -- obtained from an MRI scan -- Csernansky will produce a map of the unique dips, swells and crevasses of the brains of individuals that he hopes will provide the first scientific tool for early and more definite diagnosis of mental disorders such as schizophrenia. Diagnosing the beginning stage of mental disorders remains elusive, although this when they are most treatable.
For the first time, an international group of researchers has found genetic evidence linking schizophrenia to a specific region of DNA - on chromosome 6. This is the same area where key genes for immune function are located. The LSUHSC research team was led by Nancy Buccola, APRN, PMH CNS-BC, Assistant Professor of Clinical Nursing at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans, who also coordinated the ten clinical sites. The work, Common variants on chromosome 6p22.1 are associated with schizophrenia, along with two related papers, is published in the July 1, 2009 issue of the journal Nature. The researchers recruited study participants, people with diagnoses of schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder, plus controls from the general population.
Although the tiny roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans has only 302 neurons in its entire nervous system, studies of this simple animal have significantly advanced our understanding of human brain function because it shares many genes and neurochemical signaling molecules with humans. Now MIT researchers have found novel C. elegans neurochemical receptors, the discovery of which could lead to new therapeutic targets for psychiatric disorders if similar receptors are found in humans. Dopamine and serotonin are members of a class of neurochemicals called biogenic amines, which function in neuronal circuitry throughout the brain. Many drugs used to treat psychiatric disorders, including depression and schizophrenia, target these signaling systems, as do cocaine and other drugs of abuse.
With neuroscience on the threshold of unprecedented advances in understanding and treating Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, autism, and a range of other disorders of the brain and nervous system, the American Chemical Society (ACS) has announced plans to launch a new journal devoted to the molecular basis of neurological disease. ACS Chemical Neuroscience will launch in January 2010 with Craig W. Lindsley, Ph.D., of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, as Editor-in-Chief. The bimonthly journal will focus on the molecular aspects of neurological science in both health and disease. Topics expected in the peer-reviewed, online-only publication include nerve activators and receptors;
Schizophrenia And Bipolar Disorder Share Many Common Genetic Variants Says International Research Consortium
A new study by a large international consortium found that many common genetic variants contribute up to a third of a person's risk of inheriting schizophrenia and many of the same DNA variations are also involved in bipolar disorder. While the study helps to explain the complexity of the genetic make up of these diseases it also suggests that developing a test to predict these diseases will take some time. The study, which provides the first molecular evidence of this form of genetic variation in schizophrenia and shows a new way of thinking about the genetic origins of psychiatric diseases, was the work of the International Schizophrenia Consortium whose members are drawn from 26 different research centers in the US, Europe and Australia.
A multi-national group of investigators, including a scientist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has discovered that nearly a third of the genetic basis of schizophrenia may be attributed to the cumulative actions of thousands of common genetic variants. The effects of each of these genetic changes, innocuous on its own, add up to a significant risk for developing both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The finding, published online July 1, 2009, in the journal Nature, suggests that schizophrenia is much more complex than previously thought, and can arise not only from both rare genetic variants but also from a significant number of common ones.