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Prenatal Gene Network Suspected in Schizophrenia

May disrupt birth of new neurons in prefrontal cortex (August 1)

Researchers have reverse-engineered the outlines of a disrupted prenatal gene network in schizophrenia by tracing spontaneous mutations to where and when they are likely to cause damage in the brain. The study suggests that some people with the brain disorder may have impaired neurogenesis in the front of the brain during prenatal development.

The new research, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), was reported in the August 1 issue of Cell.

“By linking genomic findings to functional measures, this approach gives us additional insight into how early development differs in the brain of someone who will eventually manifest the symptoms of psychosis,” said Thomas R. Insel, MD, director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

The study results are consistent with several lines of evidence implicating the prefrontal cortex in schizophrenia. The prefrontal cortex organizes information from other brain regions to coordinate executive functions such as thinking, planning, attention span, working memory, problem-solving, and self-regulation. The findings suggest that impairments in such functions — often beginning before the onset of symptoms in early adulthood, when the prefrontal cortex fully matures — appear to be early signs of the illness.

Source: NIH; August 1, 2013.

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