Jan. 16 (UPI) -- Schizophrenia may come from a structural abnormality caused by a genetic mutation in the brain during childhood, a study says.
The increase of putamen volume in the brains of 14-year-olds led to a significantly higher risk for schizophrenia, according to research published this month in JAMA Psychiatry.
"The study has integrated more than 10,000 cases of image genetics data from over 20 universities and research institutes from six countries, including IMAGEN in EU, SYS in Canada, UK Biobank, 3C of France and LIBD of US," Feng Jianfeng, researcher from the Department of Computer Science at the University of Warwick and study author, in a press release.
The International Psychiatric Genetics Research Group had previously associated with putamen levels in the brain with schizophrenia. Now they believe they've established a gene to brain pathway for mental illness.
They say SNP rs13107325 on a zinc-transporter gene SLC39A8 mutation interrupts the development of putamen volume in young brains, which increases schizophrenia risk by adulthood.
Schizophrenia is normally preceded by subtle anti-social changes in behavior, that lead to a full-blown diagnosis, usually between the late teen years and early thirties. It normally appears earlier in men than women, according to the National Institutes of Health.
The NIH says that schizophrenia is among the top 15 leading causes of disability around the world. Nearly 5 percent of people with schizophrenia die from suicide.
This study has pointed to a new pathway that disrupts the growth of adolescent brains that ultimately elevates the risk of mental illness.
"Major difficulties this kind of research needs to overcome is that genetic control of brain changes with age," Jianfeng said. "Previous studies have not strictly controlled the confounding effect of age on the gene-brain association, and this confounding effect may blur such association."