- The genes for
communication are similar to genes for psychiatric illness.
- The brain
continues to develop as the child grows from infancy to adolescence and
with it bring changes to communication and risk for illness.
- A research team
from Max Plank Institute hopes to find out how these genetic variations
affect brain development and social skills.
genetic overlap that exists between the development of psychological disorders,
as well as the development of social communicative competence were studied by a
research team from Max Planck for PsychoLinguistics (MPI).
It involved understanding the ability of
middle school and adolescent to engage socially with other people.
‘Genes for communication are similar to the genes in people with autism, schizophrenia and other related psychiatric illnesses.’
study found that genes that were associated with the development of schizophrenia were the ones that were strongly
associated with social competence during the stage of early adolescence.
study findings were published in an article in the journal Molecular Psychology
The Difference is the Timing
Beate St Pourcain, lead author of the study, who is a senior investigator at
MPI said that the findings of the study show that a distinct set of genes
were responsible for the risk of these psychiatric conditions and both the set
of genes influenced the ability to communicate
. The genes, however,
exhibited maximum influence during various periods of development according to
study correlates with one of the most characteristic feature of psychiatric
diseases like autism or schizophrenia where the affected individual is unable
to communicate with others. They can neither initiate a conversation nor are
they able to respond appropriately, leading to their social isolation. However,
though both these psychiatric diseases affect the ability to communicate well,
they both develop at different periods.
two psychiatric illnesses develop in very different ways with the initial
signs of autism developed during infancy
or early childhood, while the symptoms of schizophrenia normally do not occur until early adulthood.
people who have autism and schizophrenia are unable to communicate effectively,
there are marked differences between the two psychological conditions. Autistic
people are unable to engage socially and find it difficult to understand social
cues. They are rigid but are thinkers with very strong interests. People with
schizophrenia are delusional with a disturbed thought process.
studies conducted have shown that many of these symptoms associated with
psychiatric disease are found in growing children as well as in adults. This
highlights a common process that is underlying and which could differentiate
between the normal and the abnormal.
associated with intellectual disability, difficulty in paying attention, poor
motor coordination, disturbances in sleep patterns and gastrointestinal
problems. People with autism,
however, are associated with excellence in maths, music, and visual skills.
begins during the early stages of brain development and the symptoms begin to
develop within the first 2 to 3 years of life.
is a severe mental disorder that is chronic and affects the behavior, thinking
and feelings of the individual. People who suffer from schizophrenia seem like
they are in a different world and have completely lost touch with reality.
Schizophrenia is not very common but it can be debilitating.
symptoms of schizophrenia
include hallucinations, delusions,
inability to focus, difficulty in starting as well as sustaining an activity
and problems with memory.
a genome-wide analysis was conducted, the
research team found that there was a distinct genetic
architecture that could be associated with psychiatric conditions along with
related symptoms that were found in normal individuals. The psychiatric
illnesses are a result of a polygenic effect, where variations lead to milder
symptoms while the more severe illness is developed due to small changes that
result in many genetic differences across the genome.
genetic factors that are associated with social communication are dynamic and
change from early childhood to adolescence. There is a consistency between
genes and biological growth.
Pourcaid stated that understanding the genetic relationships that exist
between traits as well as disorders will help in understanding behavioral
traits that overlap between psychological conditions.
author of the study, Dr. George Davey Smith, who is a professor of clinical
epidemiology at the University of Bristol said that the study provided an
association between genetic predictors and psychiatric conditions with differences
in social communications on advancing age, this provided access to
understanding specific causes that trigger these conditions.
David Skuse, a professor of Behavioral and Brain Sciences with The University
College London, added that the study showed that the measurement of
competence in social communication could be a sensitive indicator for genetic
. The scientists are looking to find out how these genetic variations
influence the development of the social brain and skills.
study provides an insight how milestones in brain development based on genetic
architecture can affect mental development as well as increase risk for certain
- B St Pourcain, E B Robinson, V Anttila B Sullivan, J Maller, J Golding, D Skuse, S Ring, D M Evans, S Zammit, S E Fisher, B M Neale, R J L Anney, S Ripke, M V Hollegaard, T Werge, A Ronald, J Grove, D M Hougaard, A D Børglum, P B Mortensen, M J Daly, G Davey Smith1. "ASD and schizophrenia show distinct developmental profiles in common genetic overlap with population-based social communication difficulties," Molecular Psychiatry (2017),(doi: 10.1038/mp.2016.198)
- Schizophrenia - (https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/schizophrenia/index.shtml)
- What Is Autism? What is Autism Spectrum Disorder? - (https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism)