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Gene Variant associated with Schizophrenia identified

According to a team of researchers from the Edinburgh University, the risk of development of psychotic symptoms is higher in people with a variant of a gene called// neuregulin.

This study was published in the journal Nature Neuroscience. 200 youths at high risk of developing schizophrenia were monitored for 10 years in this study. As schizophrenia is a hereditary disorder, all the volunteers had 2 or more relatives affected by this condition. All of them were of the age group 16-25 years at the beginning of the study, the vulnerable age at which the symptoms were expected to develop.

The researchers conducted interviews, brain scans, psychological tests and genetic analysis in their study. Their findings revealed that volunteers with a variant of the gene neuregulin were more likely to develop psychotic symptoms like paranoia or hearing voices linked with schizophrenia, than those with out the variant.

This was confirmed by brain scans that showed that abnormal brain activity in the frontal and temporal regions were more likely to occur in people with the gene variant. These changes are usually linked to schizophrenia.

Previous studies have revealed that a gene linked to brain development is controlled by this gene variant. These findings could help in the development of treatment.

Dr Jeremy Hall, lead researcher on the paper, based at the division of psychiatry, Edinburgh University, said: "These major mental illnesses have really been for a very long time a big black box in terms of what is causing them - it is not that long ago that people thought you got schizophrenia because you had a bad mother. And treatments have not advanced a lot over the last 50 years.

"You have to understand more about what causes diseases before you can start designing treatments for it. "These results help us to understand how a gene might alter brain function and then cause symptoms, and could represent a target for
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