Researchers found that psychiatric disorders like autism and depression share similar traits, which could help with future diagnoses.
Scientists have found that brain disorders such as autism, bipolar disorder, and even schizophrenia may be far more common than we realize, a startling find that suggests potentially millions of people are living with undiagnosed mental illnesses. These disorders, which are quite different from brain diseases such as Alzheimers that result in physical brain changes, are much more difficult to detect due to the fact they are tied to how a person behaves.
However, in this study, scienitsts were able to take advantage of recent advances in the field of genetics to spot patterns of how genes express themsleves in the brain that are linked to such disorders. Scientists measured the RNA in 700 tissue samples taken from people with autism, schiophrenia, major depression, bipolar, and alcoholism.
They then compared these samples to the brains of people who did not have these disorders, and were able to understand better what traits are shared between these groups. They were surprised to learn just how much in common these mental disorders appeared to have, which could help with diagnosis in the future.
“Many genome-wide studies have examined genes associated with a range of neuropsychiatric disorders,” the abstract of the paper states. “However, the degree to which the genetic underpinnings of these diseases differ or overlap is unknown. Gandal et al. performed meta-analyses of transcriptomic studies covering five major psychiatric disorders and compared cases and controls to identify coexpressed gene modules. From this, they found that some psychiatric disorders share global gene expression patterns. This overlap in polygenic traits in neuropsychiatric disorders may allow for better diagnosis and treatment.”