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By On January 17th, 2019

Genetic mutation in childhood may lead to schizophrenia

Researchers believe they have found a potential cause of schizophrenia that could also lead to early testing and intervention for the mental illness.

As experts from the University of Warwick report in JAMA Psychiatry, schizophrenia may be brought on by a genetic mutation which causes a structural abnormality in the brain during adolescence that is associated with schizophrenia.

If this is confirmed, it would stand to reason that it would also be possible to use tests for the gene, called SLC39A8, to determine if a child was at risk for developing schizophrenia later in life.

To come to this conclusion, professor Feng Jianfeng and colleagues from the Department of Computer Science evaluated data from over 10,000 genetic imaging tests collected from more than 20 universities in 6 countries.

According to the findings, the team observed that those who showed an enlargement in the putamen volume in adolescent brains, which is associated with the genetic mutation, was also strongly related to a higher risk for schizophrenia.

These findings reinforce past research which linked enlarged putamen volume with schizophrenia conducted by the International Psychiatric Genetics Research Group.

While these findings raise more questions about the link between SLC39A8, it is still unclear whether the genetic mutation and enlarged volume directly contribute to the development of schizophrenia or whether some aspect of the mental illness also contributes to the likelihood of having the genetic mutation.

Researcher Luo Qiang explained to Medical Xpress: “One of the major difficulties this kind of research needs to overcome is that genetic control of brain changes with age. Previous studies have not strictly controlled the confounding effect of age on the gene-brain association, and this confounding effect may blur such association.”

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