Genetic Factors for Neuropsychiatric Disorders Influence Brain Structure

Genetic variants associated with increased risk for neuropsychiatric disorders are associated with altered brain structure in apparently healthy individuals who carry these variants, according to a new study by Dutch researchers. Their finding raises the potential for using brain structure as an “intermediate phenotype” in identifying risk genes associated with neuropsychiatric disorders.

Barbara Franke, PhD, associate professor of molecular psychiatry, Department of Human Genetics and Department of Psychiatry, Institute for Genetic & Metabolic Diseases, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Center, the Netherlands, presented the study findings here at American Society of Human Genetics 60th Annual Meeting.

Altered regional brain structure is often seen in patients who have neuropsychiatric disorders, although the relation between brain structure and pathology is poorly understood. “There are basically 2 scenarios: the alterations that we see mediate the increased risk for mental disorders; and the alterations are epiphenomena and, although they co-occur with disease susceptibility, they do not contribute to them,” said Dr. Franke via email to Medscape Medical News after her presentation.

“The fact that we find brain structure alterations for so many psychiatric risk genes suggests that [the first option] is more likely, and [the alterations] are part of disease etiology,” Dr. Franke observed…..

Jacquelyn K. Beals, PhD
Medscape Medical News

American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) 60th Annual Meeting: Abstract 77. Presented November 3, 2010.

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