Description: What causes schizophrenia? If you said something like “a chemical imbalance in the brain” you are not alone and that fits with what else you likely know which is that there are a wide array of drugs available that are used as parts of efforts to address that “imbalance.” However, you know those drugs are NOT a cure, don’t you? SO back to the original question: What causes schizophrenia? Is there a genetic basis for the disorder and what would that mean as genes are fixed but schizophrenia emerges in adolescence or later? So, what do we need in order to answer the question? Well maybe, epigenetics, which is the study of the changes in brains and elsewhere that are caused by modifications of gene expression as opposed to the structure of the basic genetic code. How does that work and how might it help us to begin to understand the causes of schizophrenia (and/or bipolar disorder)? Well have a read through the article link below to get at least a glimpse of the possibilities.
Source: Hotspot in the genome may drive psychosis in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, Science News, ScienceDaily.
Date: May 3, 2019
Photo Credit: Maksim Koval/iStock
So, most of the antipsychotic drugs in use today work in one way or another by reducing the storm of dopamine that is related to the symptoms of schizophrenia. But that is only half of the story. The other part involves a scrambling of the neural synapses responsible for the “rapid-fire neural impulses responsible for healthy function.” This second process may emerge epigenetically earlier (that the dopamine flood). If so, then if it become possible to find markers of these shifts then earlier identification of the epigenetic pathways that may be heading towards schizophrenia and THAT may lead to earlier, more effective interventions on our way to actually figuring out the causes of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Exciting stuff!
Questions for Discussion:
- What do we mean when we say that schizophrenia and bipolar disorders are the results of chemical imbalances in the brain?
- What does the epigenetic study and analysis discussed in the linked article suggest about the possible causes of schizophrenia?
- Where does this line of research take us in relation to causes and/or cures for schizophrenia?
References (Read Further):
Pai, S., Li, P., Killinger, B., Marshall, L., Jia, P., Liao, J., … & Labrie, V. (2018). Differential DNA modification of an enhancer at the IGF2 locus affects dopamine synthesis in patients with major psychosis. bioRxiv, 296756. https://www.biorxiv.org/content/biorxiv/early/2018/04/06/296756.full.pdf
Roth, T. L., Lubin, F. D., Sodhi, M., & Kleinman, J. E. (2009). Epigenetic mechanisms in schizophrenia. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA)-General Subjects, 1790(9), 869-877. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2779706/
Shorter, K. R., & Miller, B. H. (2015). Epigenetic mechanisms in schizophrenia. Progress in biophysics and molecular biology, 118(1-2), 1-7. Shorter, K. R., & Miller, B. H. (2015). Epigenetic mechanisms in schizophrenia. Progress in biophysics and molecular biology, 118(1-2), 1-7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/pmc4631256/
Akbarian, S. (2014). Epigenetic mechanisms in schizophrenia. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 16(3), 405. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4214181/
Connor, C. M., & Akbarian, S. (2008). DNA methylation changes in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Epigenetics, 3(2), 55-58. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.4161/epi.3.2.5938