Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Discovery of 'teen gene' could hold promise for combating severe mental illnesses

Date:
December 17, 2013
Source:
Douglas Mental Health University Institute
Summary:
Researchers have isolated a gene, DCC, which is responsible for dopamine connectivity in the medial prefrontal cortex during adolescence. Working with mice models, they have shown that dysfunction of this gene during adolescence has behavioral consequences which carry into adulthood.

Brain scan. Researchers at the Douglas Institute Research Centre have isolated a gene that is responsible for dopamine connectivity in the medial prefrontal cortex during adolescence. The breakthrough provides the first clues towards a fuller understanding of this important phase of brain development.
Credit: Douglas Mental Health University Institute

As many parents of mentally ill adults will confirm anecdotally, the first symptoms of "something not quite right" with their children begin to appear during the teen years. It is known that during this teenaged phase of brain development, adolescents are particularly vulnerable to psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia, depression and drug addiction.

Researchers at the Douglas Institute Research Centre, affiliated with McGill University, have isolated a gene, DCC, which is responsible for dopamine connectivity in the medial prefrontal cortex during adolescence. Working with mice models, they have shown that dysfunction of this gene during adolescence has behavioral consequences which carry into adulthood.

The breakthrough provides the first clues towards a fuller understanding of this important phase of brain development. "Certain psychiatric disorders can be related to alterations in the function of the prefrontal cortex and to changes in the activity of the brain chemical dopamine," says Cecilia Flores, senior author on the study and professor at McGill's Department of Psychiatry, "Prefrontal cortex wiring continues to develop into early adulthood, although the mechanisms were, until now, entirely unknown."

Even subtle variations in DCC during adolescence produce significant alterations in prefrontal cortex function later on. To determine whether the findings of such basic research can translate to human subjects, researchers examined DCC expression in postmortem brains of people who had committed suicide. Remarkably, these brains showed higher levels of DCC expression -- some 48 per cent higher when compared to control subjects.

Prefrontal cortex is associated with judgment

"The prefrontal cortex is associated with judgment, decision making, and mental flexibility -- or with the ability to change plans when faced with an obstacle," explained Dr. Flores, "Its functioning is important for learning, motivation, and cognitive processes. Given its prolonged development into adulthood, this region is particularly susceptible to being shaped by life experiences in adolescence, such as stress and drugs of abuse. Such alterations in prefrontal cortex development can have long term consequences later on in life."

Hope to reverse the course of an illness

By identifying the first molecule involved in how the prefrontal dopamine system matures, researchers now have a target for further investigation for developing pharmacological and other types of therapies. "We know that the DCC gene can be altered by experiences during adolescence," said Dr. Flores. "This already gives us hope, because therapy, including social support, is itself a type of experience which might modify the function of the DCC gene during this critical time and perhaps reduce vulnerability to an illness."

The psychiatric consensus is that early therapy and support in adolescence, as soon as a mental health issue first manifests itself, has dramatically greater potential for a successful outcome -- and for a healthy adulthood.

This discovery is reported in Translational Psychiatry.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Douglas Mental Health University Institute. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. C Manitt, C Eng, M Pokinko, R T Ryan, A Torres-Berrνo, J P Lopez, S V Yogendran, M J J Daubaras, A Grant, E R E Schmidt, F Tronche, P Krimpenfort, H M Cooper, R J Pasterkamp, B Kolb, G Turecki, T P Wong, E J Nestler, B Giros, C Flores. dcc orchestrates the development of the prefrontal cortex during adolescence and is altered in psychiatric patients. Translational Psychiatry, 2013; 3 (12): e338 DOI: 10.1038/tp.2013.105

Cite This Page:

Douglas Mental Health University Institute. "Discovery of 'teen gene' could hold promise for combating severe mental illnesses." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 December 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131217104227.htm>.
Douglas Mental Health University Institute. (2013, December 17). Discovery of 'teen gene' could hold promise for combating severe mental illnesses. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131217104227.htm
Douglas Mental Health University Institute. "Discovery of 'teen gene' could hold promise for combating severe mental illnesses." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131217104227.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) — The FDA approved Targiniq ER on Wednesday, a painkiller designed to keep users from abusing it. Like any new medication, however, it has doubters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctor At Forefront Of Fighting Ebola Outbreak Gets Ebola

Doctor At Forefront Of Fighting Ebola Outbreak Gets Ebola

Newsy (July 24, 2014) — Sheik Umar Khan has treated many of the people infected in the Ebola outbreak, and now he's become one of them. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Condemned Man's US Execution Takes Nearly Two Hours

Condemned Man's US Execution Takes Nearly Two Hours

AFP (July 24, 2014) — America's death penalty debate raged Thursday after it took nearly two hours for Arizona to execute a prisoner who lost a Supreme Court battle challenging the experimental lethal drug cocktail. Duration: 00:55 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can Watching TV Make You Feel Like A Failure?

Can Watching TV Make You Feel Like A Failure?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) — A study by German researchers claims watching TV while you're stressed out can make you feel guilty and like a failure. 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