Genetics, brain imaging could lead to new mental illness treatments




Advances in genetics and brain imaging are leading to a revolution in our understanding of the human brain, say neuroscientists.

That's enabling researchers to discover more about mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, and opening up the possibilities for new treatments.

Advances in biology mean many genes implicated in mental illness have been identified.

And new scanning techniques are creating a complete map of the brain's intricate network of connections.

Researchers have found that people with schizophrenia tend to have fewer "hubs", so their brain networks are less well connected than healthy individuals.

Professor Ed Bullmore, Cambridge University's Head Of Psychiatry, says where the excitement is building is linking the network diagrams researchers can get out of imaging to what they're learning about the genetics of schizophrenia.

"If we can  bring those two things together then we may be able to understand more clearly what are the genetic mechanisms that drive network development to go off on a somewhat different path that leads to schizophrenia," he said.

"And if we can understand mechanisms then we can design new treatments."

Several mental conditions such as autism, ADHD, bipolar disorder, major depression and schizophrenia have been found to share some of the same genetic risk factors.

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