Genetics and Mental Health
It has long been known that some conditions tend to run in families. In fact, much of our understanding of mental health conditions comes from family, adoption, and twin studies. For example, if an identical twin has schizophrenia, the other twin has at least a 50% chance of also developing it. With the goal of adding to this body of knowledge, researchers are studying the possible links between certain genes and serious conditions like schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar disorder.
SchizophreniaSchizophrenia is a chronic and severe brain condition that affects behavior and thoughts. People with schizophrenia may have hallucinations and delusions, such as seeing things that aren't really there or believing that they are being followed. If left untreated, schizophrenia can impact every aspect of a person's life, including their relationships with family and friends, as well as their careers.While the family link to schizophrenia is well-established, paring down the risk to one specific gene is an extremely difficult challenge. A gene called catecho-O-methyltransferase (COMT) has been the focus of a lot of investigation. This gene makes an enzyme that breaks down dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is believed to play a role in the development of schizophrenia. Researchers found some evidence to support the idea that people who inherit a certain combination or a mutation of the COMT gene may be more susceptible to schizophrenia. Much more research is needed because of the complexity of how genes interact with each other and how different neurotransmitters affect the brain's functioning.