Five major psychiatric disorders share genetic links
Five major mental illnesses — autism,
disorder, bipolar disorder, major
depressive disorder and schizophrenia
— appear to share some common
genetic risk factors, according to an
examination of genetic data from
more than 60,000 people worldwide
(The Lancet, online Feb. 28).
Researchers in 19 countries
examined the genomes of more
than 33,000 individuals with one
of the disorders and nearly 28,000
controls. They found four regions of
the genetic code where variation was
linked to all five disorders.
Of particular interest are
disruptions in two specific genes.
One, CACNA1C, has previously
been linked to bipolar disorder and
schizophrenia. The other, CACNB2,
regulates the flow of calcium in brain
cells and is crucial in helping neurons
communicate with each other. The
researchers posit that the disruption
in calcium channel function could
be one early pathway that leaves someone vulnerable to
developing any of the five disorders, says Jordan Smoller, MD,
the study’s lead author.
“While these variations are only a small part of the genetic
component of these disorders, these findings still point to
a shared biology,” says Smoller, a professor of psychiatry at
Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital.
The hope is that these findings will eventually make it easier
to diagnose and treat these disorders, says Bruce Cuthbert, PhD,
director of the National Institute of Mental Health’s Division of
Adult Translational Research and Treatment Development.
“We are finally starting to make inroads where we have
actual physiological mechanisms that we can target,” Cuthbert
says. “We can really start to understand the biology instead of
having to guess at it.”
Students: Learn how APA governance works
A psychology graduate student can have an inside look at how the association’s governance works thanks to a travel award
from the Assembly of Scientist/Practitioner Psychologists (ASPP), a caucus of APA’s Council of Representatives. The students
will receive $1,000 to travel to the council’s February 2014 meeting in Washington, D.C. At the meeting, the student who
receives the award will be mentored by the ASPP chair.
Interested students may send their CVs, a 100-word statement explaining their reasons for applying for the award, and a
letter of endorsement from their advisor addressing the student’s promise as a scientist-practitioner. Applications should be
emailed to ASPP Chair Ellen W. Williams, PhD, at firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline for submissions is July 12.
The ASPP Board will review all submissions, select a student and announce the recipient in August.