Some brain changes that are found in adults with common gene variants linked to disorders such as Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia, and autism can also be seen in the brain scans of newborns.
"These results suggest that prenatal brain development may be a very important influence on psychiatric risk later in life," said Rebecca C. Knickmeyer, PhD, lead author of the study and assistant professor of psychiatry in the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. The study was published by the journal Cerebral Cortex on Jan. 3, 2013.
The study included 272 infants who received MRI scans at UNC Hospitals shortly after birth. The DNA of each was tested for 10 common variations in 7 genes that have been linked to brain structure in adults. These genes have also been implicated in conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, autism, Alzheimer's disease, anxiety disorders and depression.
For some polymorphisms – such as a variation in the APOE gene which is associated with Alzheimer's disease – the brain changes in infants looked very similar to brain changes found in adults with the same variants, Knickmeyer said. "This could stimulate an exciting new line of research focused on preventing onset of illness through very early intervention in at-risk individuals."
But this was not true for every polymorphism included in the study, said John H. Gilmore, MD, senior author of the study and Thad & Alice Eure Distinguished Professor and Vice Chair for Research and Scientific Affairs in the UNC Department of Psychiatry.
For example, the study included two variants in the DISC1 gene. For one of these variants, known as rs821616, the infant brains looked very similar to the brains of adults with this variant. But there was no such similarity between infant brains and adult brains for the other variant, rs6675281.
"This suggests that the brain changes associated with this gene variant aren't present at birth but develop later in life, perhaps during puberty," Gilmore said.
"It's fascinating that different variants in the same gene have such unique effects in terms of when they affect brain development," said Knickmeyer.
University of North Carolina Health Care: http://www.med.unc.edu
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
Princeton University’s annual science art contest shines a light on the research world, adding a video element this year
Using mitochondrial replacement therapy to create embryos with DNA from three people could have serious consequences Continue reading...
Chinese and Australian scientists find pandas migrate long distances to maintain a balanced diet which helps them breed
On the morning of March 15, 2000, 17 beaked whales stranded themselves on beaches in the northern Bahamas. It was an terrible and extraordinary event: beaked whales are the world's deepest-diving mammals, and these creatures had spent most of their lives in deep undersea canyons.
The UN's seabed authority issues exploration licences that accelerate a search for valuable minerals on the ocean floor.
More than 100 locations on the human genome may play a role in a person’s risk of developing schizophrenia, according to a new study.
The average human today is bigger and lives longer than people at any other time in history
Some bats rely on polarized light to calibrate their internal compass
For one month every summer, hundreds of thousands of purple martins stop by an abandoned shopping mall parking lot in Austin, Texas, on their way to the Amazon Basin. Reporter Luke Quinton visited this year's roosting and offers a glimpse of the phenomenon.
Some, like dolphins or chimps, are sophisticated communicators. But do they have their own languages? Its a question that misses the point