The breakthrough came when they began looking for gene clusters rather than at individual genes. Dr. C. Robert Cloninger, one of the study’s senior authors, explained, “Genes don’t operate by themselves. They function in concert much like an orchestra, and to understand how they’re working, you have to know not just who the members of the orchestra are but how they interact.” And co-author Dr. Dragan Svrakic stated, “What was missing was the idea that these genes don’t act independently. They work in concert to disrupt the brain’s structure and function, and that results in the illness.” As the researchers analyzed the DNA, they matched any gene variations they found in the DNA with individual symptoms.
It’s been known that the risk for schizophrenia is inherited. Now they are beginning to identify the gene clusters that are responsible for specific symptoms. They found that “some gene clusters were responsible for hallucinations and delusions, other gene clusters disorganized speech and behavior, while still other gene clusters affect lack of initiative, problems organizing thoughts or making the connection between emotions and thoughts.”
Why is this gene research so exciting?
Previous studies have linked genetic mutations in older fathers with mental disorders such as autism and schizophrenia. The more they can identify the cause at the genetic level, the greater the chance of predicting who might get it and, more importantly, finding a highly targeted therapy and medication for treating each individual.
Today, psychotherapy is an effective means of treatment mental disorders. As a psychologist with 30 years of experience in counseling families, I also see how important it is for caretakers to get therapy when they have the ongoing stress of caring for someone who is seriously mentally ill. Please contact my Portland office and set up an appointment if you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA.
For more information: Read CNN writer Jacque Wilson’s article, Study: Schizophrenia is 8 diseases.