Well Being

Study Finds Depression, Autism and Other Psych Disorders Share Common Genetic Roots

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shutterstock_110609294What does schizophrenia have to do with depression? Or bipolar disorder with autism and ADHD? Sure, they're all psychiatric disorders, broadly defined; but depression and bipolar are mood disorders, autism is considered a developmental disorder, ADHD a neurobehavioral problem and schizophrenia a good, old-fashioned “mental illness.” it sure shakes things up a little bit to note that all five mental health issues may stem from a common genetic variation.

According to Massachusetts General's Jordan Smoller and colleagues, a particular genetic variation (aka polymorphism) in two genes appears related to the development of depression, bipolar disorder, autism, ADHD and schizophrenia.

The findings, published in the Lancet, “may inform a move beyond descriptive syndromes in psychiatry and towards classification based on underlying causes,” Smoller said.

Funded by the National Institutes of Health, his team analyzed genes from 60,000 people in what they're describing as the largest-even study of the genetics of psychiatric illness.

Both of the shared gene variants they discovered were in genes related to calcium signaling, a process that's key for regulating the growth and development of brain cells. “Our results suggest that voltage-gated calcium signaling, and, more broadly, calcium-channel activity, could be an important biological process in psychiatric disorders,” the authors wrote.