In DepthNeuroscience

Psychiatrists begin to map genetic architecture of mental disorders

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Science  09 Feb 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6376, pp. 619
DOI: 10.1126/science.359.6376.619

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Mental illness affects one in six U.S. adults, but scientists' sense of the underlying biology of most psychiatric disorders remains nebulous. That's frustrating for physicians treating the diseases, who must make diagnoses based on symptoms that may only appear sporadically. Now, a large-scale analysis of postmortem brains is revealing distinctive molecular traces in people with mental illness. On p. 693, an international team of researchers reports that five major psychiatric disorders have often overlapping patterns of gene activity, which furthermore vary in disease-specific—and sometimes counterintuitive—ways. The findings, they say, might someday lead to diagnostic tests, and one has already inspired a clinical trial of a new way to treat overactive brain cells in autism.