Is lower academic achievement in early life tied to the same gene changes as an increased risk for Alzheimer’s in older age? That is one of dozens of possible deductions to be drawn from the largest genomic study of brain conditions ever conducted, research that obscures what often have been considered clear diagnostic borders.
According to the findings, published June 22 in Science, conditions such as schizophrenia, major depressive disorder (MDD) and bipolar disorder share a suite of overlapping genetic variants rather than having distinct genetic signatures.
In addition to the genetic links between educational attainment and Alzheimer’s risk, the results link neuroticism to anorexia nervosa, anxiety disorders, MDD and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Neurological disorders like Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis, however, have few variants in common with each other or with psychiatric conditions.
“One of the big messages is that psychiatric disorders turned out to be very connected on the genetic level,” says Verneri Anttila, the first author on the paper.
With dozens of new investigative starting points involving these common variants in-hand, what’s next? “The immediate takeaway from this study is that now that we have identified these connections, we can better understand how these disorders arise,” says Anttila. “There may be some deeper genetic mechanisms at play here [that] predispose individuals to multiple disorders, rather than just a single one.”
Read full, original post: Analysis of a Million-Plus Genomes Points to Blurring Lines among Brain Disorders