-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
THURSDAY, Jan. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Brain changes found in
adults with certain gene variants linked to conditions including
Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia and autism can also be spotted
in brain scans done on newborns, a new study indicates.
Researchers from the University of North Carolina (UNC) School
of Medicine said these brain changes could open new avenues for
"These results suggest that prenatal brain development may be a very important influence on psychiatric risk later in life," study author Rebecca Knickmeyer, an assistant professor of psychiatry, said in a university news release. "This could stimulate an exciting new line of research focused on preventing onset of illness through very early intervention in at-risk individuals."
The study involved 272 infants who had an MRI shortly after
birth. The DNA of each infant was screened for 10 common variations
in seven genes associated with certain disorders, such as
schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, autism, Alzheimer's disease,
anxiety disorders and depression.
Brain changes found in adults with some risk-related genes, such
as the variation in the APOE gene that is associated with
Alzheimer's disease, were very similar to the brain changes in the
infants with the same variants.
Study senior author Dr. John Gilmore, a distinguished professor
and vice chair for research and scientific affairs in the UNC
department of psychiatry, noted that these similarities between
infant brains and adult brains were not found for every variation
in every gene examined.
"It's fascinating that different variants in the same gene have such unique effects in terms of when they affect brain development," Knickmeyer noted.
The study was published Jan. 3 in
The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more about
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