Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Gene Linked With Mental Illness Shapes Brain Region, Researchers Find

Date:
November 9, 2006
Source:
UT Southwestern Medical Center
Summary:
A gene variant associated with mental illness goes hand-in-hand with enlargement of a brain region that handles negative emotions, researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center and the Central Texas Veterans Health Care System have found.

Researchers led by Dr. Dwight German, professor of psychiatry, have discovered that a gene variant linked to mental illness is associated with enlargement of a brain region that handles negative emotions.
Credit: UT Southwestern Medical Center

A gene variant associated with mental illness goes hand-in-hand with enlargement of a brain region that handles negative emotions, researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center and the Central Texas Veterans Health Care System have found.

The region of the brain called the pulvinar is larger and contains more nerve cells in humans who carry the gene.

"This might indicate that the brain regions that receive input from the pulvinar are more strongly influenced in such individuals, and the pulvinar communicates with brain regions involved in negative emotional issues," said Dr. Dwight German, professor of psychiatry at UT Southwestern and senior author of a study available online and in a future issue of Biological Psychiatry.

The researchers focused on a gene related to the neurotransmitter serotonin, one of the chemical messengers that nerves use to communicate with one another. Once specific nerve cells release serotonin, a molecule called the serotonin transporter (SERT) brings it back into the cell. Thus, serotonin has only a brief influence on the target neurons. Drugs that prevent this re-uptake, such as Prozac, are frequently used to treat patients with depression.

The serotonin transporter gene has two forms, or variants: short, or SERT-s, and long, SERT-l. A person can have two copies of the short gene, one copy each of the short and long, or two copies of the long gene. It is estimated that about 17 percent of the population has two copies of the SERT-s gene.

People carrying two SERT-s genes are more sensitive to emotional stimuli and more likely to experience depression than people with one or no SERT-s genes.

The researchers studied brains from 49 deceased people, with and without psychiatric illnesses. The brains were sliced thinly, the size of the pulvinar measured, the number of nerve cells counted, and the variety of each individual's SERT gene analyzed.

They found that subjects carrying two SERT-s genes had pulvinars that were 20 percent larger and contained 20 percent more nerve cells -- about 1.5 million more -- than subjects with either one or two SERT-l genes. Whether the person had a psychiatric disorder did not affect the size of the pulvinar.

Dr. German cautioned, however, that the entire brain is not simply larger in individuals carrying two copies of the SERT-s gene. Similar studies in other areas of the brain have found that the SERT-s gene is associated with certain areas of the brain being smaller.

"The brain is wired differently in people who have depression, and probably from the point of view of treatment, we should try to identify these people as early as possible and intervene before the 'hard-wiring' gets altered," Dr. German said.

Dr. Umar Yazdani, assistant instructor in the Center for Basic Neuroscience at UT Southwestern, also participated in the study, as did lead author Dr. Keith Young and other researchers from the Central Texas VA and Texas A&M University System Health Science Center.

The work was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health; the Veterans Administration; the Scott, Sherwood and Brindley Foundation; the Zigenbein Memorial Fund; and the Theodore and Vada Stanley Foundation.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by UT Southwestern Medical Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

UT Southwestern Medical Center. "Gene Linked With Mental Illness Shapes Brain Region, Researchers Find." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 November 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/11/061108110932.htm>.
UT Southwestern Medical Center. (2006, November 9). Gene Linked With Mental Illness Shapes Brain Region, Researchers Find. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/11/061108110932.htm
UT Southwestern Medical Center. "Gene Linked With Mental Illness Shapes Brain Region, Researchers Find." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/11/061108110932.htm (accessed September 17, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

President To Send 3,000 Military Personnel To Fight Ebola

President To Send 3,000 Military Personnel To Fight Ebola

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) President Obama is expected to send 3,000 troops to West Africa as part of the effort to contain Ebola's spread. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) A Texas man is lucky to be alive after he and three others floated for more than a day in the Gulf of Mexico when their boat sank during a fishing trip. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ivorians Abandon Monkey Pets in Fear Over Ebola Virus

Ivorians Abandon Monkey Pets in Fear Over Ebola Virus

AFP (Sep. 16, 2014) Since the arrival of Ebola in Ivory Coast, Ivorians have been abandoning their pets, particularly monkeys, in the fear that they may transmit the virus. Duration: 00:47 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Study Links Male-Pattern Baldness To Prostate Cancer

Study Links Male-Pattern Baldness To Prostate Cancer

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) New findings suggest men with a certain type of baldness at age 45 are 39 percent more likely to develop aggressive prostate cancer. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

      Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins