Neurogenetics research has begun to advance our understanding of how genetic variation gives rise to individual differences in brain function, which, in turn, shapes behavior and risk for psychopathology. Despite these advancements, neurogenetics research is currently confronted by three major challenges: (1) conducting research on individual variables with small effects, (2) absence of detailed mechanisms, and (3) a need to translate findings toward greater clinical relevance. In this review, we showcase techniques and developments that address these challenges and highlight the benefits of a neurogenetics approach to understanding brain, behavior and psychopathology. To address the challenge of small effects, we explore approaches including incorporating the environment, modeling epistatic relationships and using multilocus profiles. To address the challenge of mechanism, we explore how non-human animal research, epigenetics research and genome-wide association studies can inform our mechanistic understanding of behaviorally relevant brain function. Finally, to address the challenge of clinical relevance, we examine how neurogenetics research can identify novel therapeutic targets and for whom treatments work best. By addressing these challenges, neurogenetics research is poised to exponentially increase our understanding of how genetic variation interacts with the environment to shape the brain, behavior and risk for psychopathology.
Link to an overview in Jan 2013 Neuron by UCLA researchers Jason Stein, Neelroop Parikshak, and Daniel Geschwind of the Geschwind Lab:
Here’s a link to a recent (11/2012) paper in Neuron co-authored by Nathan Spreng, a recent special guest lecturer at CBDMH:
Abstract: During the past few years, there has been a dramatic increase in research examining the role of memory in imagination and future thinking. This work has revealed striking similarities between remembering the past and imagining or simulating the future, including the finding that a common brain network underlies both memory and imagination. Here, we discuss a number of key points that have emerged during recent years, focusing in particular on the importance of distinguishing between temporal and nontemporal factors in analyses of memory and imagination, the nature of differences between remembering the past and imagining the future, the identification of component processes that comprise the default network supporting memory-based simulations, and the finding that this network can couple flexibly with other networks to support complex goal-directed simulations. This growing area of research has broadened our conception of memory by highlighting the many ways in which memory supports adaptive functioning.
Are psychiatric disorders, which leave no visible trace in the brain, caused by connectopathies? The American Association for the Advancement of Science: mapping the brain: Only connect | The Economist.
Conflict and Health 2013, 7:3 doi:10.1186/1752-1505-7-3
Published: 18 February 2013
Concepts of ‘what constitutes mental illness’, the presumed aetiology and preferred treatment options, vary considerably from one cultural context to another. Knowledge and understanding of these local conceptualisations is essential to inform public mental health programming and policy.
Participants from four locations in Burundi, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, were invited to describe ‘problems they knew of that related to thinking, feeling and behaviour?’ Data were collected over 31 focus groups discussions (251 participants) and key informant interviews with traditional healers and health workers.
While remarkable similarities occurred across all settings, there were also striking differences. In all areas, participants were able to describe localized syndromes characterized by severe behavioural and cognitive disturbances with considerable resemblance to psychotic disorders. Additionally, respondents throughout all settings described local syndromes that included sadness and social withdrawal as core features. These syndromes had some similarities with nonpsychotic mental disorders, such as major depression or anxiety disorders, but also differed significantly. Aetiological concepts varied a great deal within each setting, and attributed causes varied from supernatural to psychosocial and natural. Local syndromes resembling psychotic disorders were seen as an abnormality in need of treatment, although people did not really know where to go. Local syndromes resembling nonpsychotic mental disorders were not regarded as a ‘medical’ disorder, and were therefore also not seen as a condition for which help should be sought within the biomedical health-care system. Rather, such conditions were expected to improve through social and emotional support from relatives, traditional healers and community members.
Local conceptualizations have significant implications for the planning of mental-health interventions in resource-poor settings recovering from conflict. Treatment options for people suffering from severe mental disorders should be made available to people, preferably within general health care facilities. For people suffering from local syndromes characterized by loss or sadness, the primary aim for public mental health interventions would be to empower existing social support systems already in place at local levels, and to strengthen social cohesion and self-help within communities.
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