Researchers from Harvard, MIT, and Stanford started a collaboration for a great cause and founded the Brainstorm Consortium, a project with a difficult task. They assumed the most common psychiatric disorders have a common genetic root but proving that was a true challenge. However, they managed to develop a study where they studied how these disorders overlap from a genetic point of view.
How genetically similar are psychiatric disorders?
Psychiatric disorders do relate to each other, and they share genes that trigger them. Personality might play an important role as well, since certain traits are more common among mental patients. However, researchers were interested in the genetic pattern they share.
For the study, researchers selected 25 psychiatric disorders that were the subject of older studies. All these analyses used a large number of people as a sample and looked at their entire genome. They were called GWAS (genome-wide association studies) and looked for genetic variation that was typical of specific diseases.
This way, they sifted through a huge number of genomes that belonged both to healthy people and patients with psychiatric disorders or neurological diseases. The latter shared no genetic overlap, but the situation was completely different for mental conditions.
Psychiatric disorders have a common genetic basis
Diseases like ADHD, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder shared quite a big number of genes. Schizophrenia shared an even bigger amount of genes with OCD and anorexia. However, other conditions showed little to no genetic similarities with other psychiatric conditions. These include the Tourette syndrome and autism, which work independently.
Since psychiatric patients also share some psychological traits, researchers mentioned them as well. As you might expect, people suffering from depression, anorexia, schizophrenia, OCD, or anxiety are all neurotics.
It’s no wonder that psychiatric disorders share a common genetic basis. However, this study should work as a lesson for doctors, but also for patients. Given the many similarities between these diseases, we might rethink their classification and, most importantly, their method of treatment. The study on the matter was published in the journal Science.
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