Understanding Healthy Brain Function Furthers Progress in Identifying Causes of Schizophrenia

Brain & Behavior Research Foundation NARSAD Grantee David Braff, M.D., University of California, San Diego, Expert on Schizophrenia
David Braff, M.D.

Up to twelve chromosome regions may harbor genes for keeping the brain in good working order, reports a new study by Brain & Behavior Research Foundation NARSAD Grantee David Braff, M.D., and his research team. Because problems with certain jobs done by the brain, such as remembering information, have been linked to schizophrenia, pinpointing the genes that help those jobs get done well may be a backdoor route to finding genes that contribute to the disorder. 

Conducted by the Consortium on the Genetics of Schizophrenia and led by Dr. David Braff at the University of California, San Diego, the study measured a dozen different brain functions of 1,246 people either with schizophrenia or related to someone with the illness (296 families represented in total). Problems with certain brain functions, including those related to attention, memory, verbal learning and the ability to suppress a movement were sometimes associated with certain stretches of DNA (molecules that contain heredity encoding information) along the chromosomes. For example, a person’s ability to suppress an eye movement was associated with a region of chromosome 3. 
 
The study could only identify the ballpark region along the chromosome and not the specific genes. Future finer-grained studies will have to pluck out the relevant genes and see if they do indeed contribute to risk for developing schizophrenia. 
 
The study was published online Mar. 20, 2013 in American Journal of Psychiatry.
 
Read more on the Schizophrenia Research Forum website sponsored by the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation