Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Gene Linked With Mental Illness Shapes Brain Region

Researchers have discovered a gene associated with mental illness that enlarges the region of the brain called the Pulvinar.

"The 5HTTLPR genetic variant of the serotonin transporter (SERT), which consists of a long (SERT-l) and short (SERT-s) allele, has emerged as a major factor influencing emotional behavior and brain anatomy."[1]

The Pulvinar (as shown in the picture) appears to be larger and carries more nerve cells in individuals who experience mental illness than those who do not.

"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, one of the authors of the research study.

The more I learn about the mind and biology, the more things makes sense. Don't you think? Hopefully, such research will help to take the stigma out of mental illness.

The study is available at Biological Psychiatry - a journal of psychiatric neuroscience and therapeutics.

Genetic research rocks.

[1] Young, K.A., Holcomb, L., Bonkale, W.L., Hicks, P.B., Yazdani, U. & German, D.C. (2006). 5HTTLPR polymorphism and enlargement of the pulvinar: Unlocking the backdoor to the limbic system. Biological Psychiatry. In press.


Anonymous said...

What a gift that would be...for so many people and their families. You are right...genetic research does rock.

~Deb said...

I'm sure I have this! (ha) Interesting though! Does this relate to chemical imbalances?

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!!!

J.D. said...

As usual, you've given me some very thought provoking information, and I'm most appreciative of that!

Sending you many holiday blessings.

PalmTreeChick said...

That does make sense. Now they just need to find a way to fix the enlargement.

Dr. A said...

There are times I feel the opposite. The more we (meaning medicine) learn, the more that we do NOT know about the brain. Can be frustrating sometimes. Although I agree, genetic research is very cool.

Michelle said...

I wonder if this is true of all forms of mental illness or only the most severe disorders. As usual, you've given me something to think about. Just wanted to stop by and wish you and your family a happy Thanksgiving.

east village idiot said...

Yes it does make sense - and I thank you for putting that info on the web. Think of all the people you help with you're wonderful blog!

Happy Thanksgiving!

OHN said...

After years with symptoms that I didnt understand my FMD diagnosed PTSD. I jokingly told him I never served in a war and he said that I had, but in my mind. He wanted to prescribe an SSRI and I asked him if he thought I was crazy~he oh so sweetly told me that I was not crazy and that treatment for PTSD or depression should be looked at as no different than diabetes or heart disease etc, that could be effectively treated with medication. He made me feel soooo much better by putting "crazy" in the same light as hypertension-a treatable illness. I will be forever grateful.Many many years ago my grandfather was treated for "spells" (ie:depression in current medical terms) with electoshock therapy and the stigma was awful...I am so glad research is progressing.

Cathy said...

It is so great to hear that science is advancing and providing more answers to things that have eluded us for so long.

Nancy said...

Hi Dr Deb,
I think functional MRI are a key to many illnesses including mental illness (and I hope there cures).
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family

Shirazi said...

Happy Thanksgiving Dr. Deb.

Belizegial said...

Hello Dr. Deb,

This research is so interesting and offers possibilities for cure for those affected with this type of mental illness.

The weather has a definite chilliness over here in the tropics at this time, a sure sign that Christmas is just around the corner :)

Have a great Thanksgiving,


Anonymous said...

hmm just wondering how this works for people with mnpd/did?

Andrew said...

Genetic research is going to reshape many areas of medicine, I'm convinced of it.

eleanor said...

It would be interesting to know what that particular brain area regulates in our behaviour and is the change in size a cause or an effect of mental illness? It may not simply be the case that "reversing" the size of the area will lead to a cure, as some other commenters have suggested. Particularly considering all the other biological relationships found between the condition of the brain and mental state.

Big questions, but something I feel you cannot make any assumptions about when dealing with mental illness. Particularly when GP's feel that the only option is to prescribe potentially very dangerous drugs to treat these conditions.

Anonymous said...

Like you, i too am excited by research that links neurology to mental illness! It excites me cause this would mean a much more practical and solid way to diagnose, measure, and possibly treat mental illness! :D

kath said...

Hey Deb!

Just wanted to say hello and Happy Thanksgiving to you...

I miss my blogfriends.. have got to start sleeping less, and blogging more!

take care

Anonymous said...

As Mr. Spock from Star Trek would say "Fascinating".

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, Deb. May all the love and thoughtfulness you give out be returned to you geometrically.


Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Dear Traci,
The more we know, the more stigma can be reduced. It *would* be a gift!

Dear ~Deb,
I'm certain I have this as well. I imagine it does have much to do with chemical imbalance. Happy Thanksgiving to you too ;)

Dear J.D.
Thanks for the holiday shout out. I like sharing the nuggets I mine from the internet.

Dear Palmtree,
I think discoveries like this open tremendous possibilities.

Dear Dr. A.
Didn't I read somewhere that we only know about 4% of what the brain actually does? You are right, research findings like this make one think how little we DO know.

Dear Michelle,
I read the study in abstract form, but will purchase it online. I have been wondering that too.

Dear EVI,
It's good to share, don'tcha think? Hey, the balloons are flying today in the city. How great is THAT?

Dear OHN,
Sometimes looking differently at a situation can make a HUGE difference in self worth. I am so glad that you are able to see mentail issues for what they are. And hats off to that doctor ;)

Dear Cathy,
Couldn't have said it any better myself.

Dear Nancy,
Wouldn't it be great if we could get a head to toe MRI to help us KNOW our issues. Maybe one day that would be possible and affordable.

Dear Shirazi,
Thank you, my friend.

Dear Enid,
Research, when done well, can offer us great insight into things, I agree. Thanks for the holiday shout out!

Dear JIP,
Good question. I hope that more neuropsychological testing and research can be done for the dissociative issues. I bet we would learn SO much.

Dear Andrew,
So true!

Dear Eleanor,
I believe that there are multi-determined reasons why mental illness occurs and how the illness uniquely touches a person - so you are right. The issue here is for greater understanding. This way, treatment can be tailored to each person's it talk therapy or meds or both.

Dear Astro,
THe field of neuropsychology IS so exciting. Sometimes I think about going for a respecialization into that field.

Dear Kath,
So nice to see you here. Blessings to you and yours.

Dear Godwhacker,
You are so witty and special, my friend. I hope we will all "live long and prosper".


Vegas said...

Things are finally moving at a decent pace in Psychiatry research! Would be interested to get your personal/professional opinion on my latest entry if you've got a minute or two. Cheers.

Anonymous said...

Deb, thanks very much for the Thanksgiving wishes. The same right back atcha!

As to the mental illness - what variety are they talking about? "garden variety" depression and anxiety disorders, or psychosis, or what?

Ms.L said...

That is amazing!
Stuff like this makes me excited
for the future.

healthpsych said...

Interesting stuff, thanks for the article Deborah. It's just the tip of the iceberg. So much more to discover....

dragonflyfilly said...

this is just remarkable -- isn't the brain just the most wonderful and beautiful thing you have every seen! (and without the brain would we have science? *chuckle*)

Rose said...

Yeah research rocks. I wondered could that check the brain to tell who will experience mental problems.
Hoped you had a marvelous Thanksgiving...

Wanda's Wings said...

Very interesting. I wonder if they will find a way to fix it. No mental illness. Would that not be something? Hope you had a great Thanksgiving.

HeiressChild said...

what a great discovery. i'm glad researchers continue to research, research, and do more research. with this knowledge, hopefully, one day it will enable drs to know how to cure mental illness completely.


Sarebear said...

YAY for more research.

maybe it's juvenile to put it that way, but then again a happy feeling when they find out more just wells up inside when I hear it.

I hate feeling so juvenile, tho.

Anyway, thanks for bringing this forward! (Eeek, I sound like my ologist, there, lol.!)

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Dear Vegas,
I left you a comment.

Dear Candace,
I have to read the study further to know. I'll update you when I get it!

Dear MS. L.
I feel the SAME way!

Dear Healthpsych,
So true. It helps to make things real.

Dear Dragonfly,
The best course I ever took was on neuropsych. It was really hard but I loved it. I think the brain is way cool too!

Dear Rose,
I think that eventually there will be more technological ways to diagnose mental illness.

Dear Wanda,
With every discvoery come more questions.

Dear Heiress,
Technology is totally awesome.

Dear Sare,
I like jumping up and down too. Being adult all the time is *so* boring.


Deb S. said...

Great post! Compelling information!