Gene: Intelligence and Schizophrenia

Source: That which makes us clever, make us mad , 09-02-2007

One of the most devastating types of mental illness could be a by-product of the evolution of human beings’ uniquely sophisticated intelligence, a new genetic study has suggested.

Scientists have discovered that a common version of a particular gene appears both to enhance a key thinking circuit in the brain, and to be linked to a raised risk of schizophrenia.

The findings, from a study by the US National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), provide fresh evidence for the theory that schizophrenia is the price that some people pay for our species’s peculiarly advanced intellectual abilities.

In the study, the NIMH team examined a common variant of a gene called DARPP-32. Three quarters of the subjects studied had inherited at least one copy of the variant.

Daniel Weinberger, of NIMH, said it was possible that while a more efficient link between the prefrontal cortex and striatum normally improves cognitive ability, it may have a negative effect when other genetic and environmental factors interfere. The result could be a predisposition to schizophrenia, which is known to be caused by a combination of genes and a person’s environment.

Details of the study are published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

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