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Secrets of Schizophrenia and Depression "Unlocked" 334

Oracle Goddess writes "According to the US National Institute for Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland, scientists have discovered a remarkable similarity between the genetic faults behind both schizophrenia and manic depression in a breakthrough that is expected to open the way to new treatments for two of the most common mental illnesses, affecting millions of people. Previously schizophrenia and depression were assumed to be two separate conditions, but the new research shows for the first time that both have a common genetic basis that leads people to develop one or the other of the two illnesses."
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Secrets of Schizophrenia and Depression "Unlocked"

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  • by ihatewinXP ( 638000 ) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @11:34AM (#28558313)

    ... how would you determine how they are related in the first place if you dont RTFA? Especially given the complexity of these issues in their relation to your understanding of them.

    There, fixed it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 02, 2009 @11:36AM (#28558335)

    ... it is not the 'depression' you may be lead to believe.

  • Clarification (Score:3, Informative)

    by Peregr1n ( 904456 ) <ian.a.ferguson@gmail.com> on Thursday July 02, 2009 @11:36AM (#28558343) Homepage
    That would be CLINICAL depression. As in, the type caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain; as opposed to the type caused by your wife leaving you.
  • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @11:37AM (#28558357) Homepage
    I know this is Slashdot and all, but that is rather the point of TFA. In fact, for a change, it does a reasonably good job.

  • by david_thornley ( 598059 ) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @11:38AM (#28558371)

    The summary seems to confuse being depressive with being bipolar (i.e., manic-depressive). Clinical depression is a common problem, and is generally treatable to some extent with drug and cognitive therapy. Last I checked, bipolar was much less common and a lot less treatable.

    So, it isn't going to lead to new treatments for two common problems. It may well lead to new treatments for two problems, one of which is distinctly less common. Those who are clinically depressed but not bipolar may well not benefit at all.

  • Re:Thanks (Score:3, Informative)

    by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn@@@gmail...com> on Thursday July 02, 2009 @11:38AM (#28558381) Journal

    i'd like to thank Steve Ballmer for making himself available for this important breakthrough.

    Steve says, "show yourself, human! [crunchgear.com]"

  • Re:So what is it? (Score:5, Informative)

    by mcgrew ( 92797 ) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @11:46AM (#28558501) Homepage Journal

    Indeed, the disease is no longer called "manic depression". It's "bipolar disorder" now. And BTW, schitzophrenia is not multiple personalities, that one is called "disassociative identity disorder". Schitzophrenics experience delusions, like changing their memories of a movie or TV show into memories of their own life experience; or hallucinations, like hearing voices in their heads telling them what a terrible person they are.

    Depression is a completely different disease and often leads to suicide and usually leads to drug or alcohol abuse, although the metal health industry usually blames the substance abuse for the depression that started before the substance abuse did.

    You meet a lot of crazy people in bars. One guy I saw in a bar said "I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy".

  • by cowbutt ( 21077 ) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @11:47AM (#28558521) Journal

    Similarity of some symptoms, medication that is effective for both conditions, a history of one or other condition in a person's ancestry...

  • by bogaboga ( 793279 ) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @11:48AM (#28558531)

    In order to treat these conditions, ECT [wikipedia.org] is the tool of choice these days. It has its own detractors (me inclusive) for I do not see how inducing a seizure helps an individual.

    Worst of all you could lose all your memory. There was a story of a lady who did not remember anything about her clothes and wondered who had put "foreign" clothes in her closet. In another case, a former doctor could not remember who the hell he was after the procedure. Scary indeed.

  • by cool_story_bro ( 1522525 ) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @11:53AM (#28558595)
    I just wish the summary were better. The title and summary use Depression [wikipedia.org] and Manic Depression [wikipedia.org] interchangeably, which is just dead wrong.
  • In perspective (Score:5, Informative)

    by tgibbs ( 83782 ) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @11:54AM (#28558611)

    Just to put this in perspective, this is not a gene, but just a region of a chromosome. And the association with any particular locus is weak, so it doesn't look like it is strong enough for diagnosis or prenatal testing. Even when the gene is identified, going from a gene to a treatment tends to be very difficult. We've know of genes for Huntington's Disease and Alzheimer's Disease for years, and while this has inspired a lot of promising research, so far this knowledge has not yet resulting any major improvements with respect to treatment or prevention.

    Moreover, finding that the same genes are involved does not necessarily mean that the diseases are the same, because genes can be "broken" in multiple ways.

    The idea that there is a relationship between schizophrenia and bipolar disorder is not actually new, as there are some people who exhibit characteristics of both disorders, and some people diagnosed with one respond to drugs that are commonly used to treat the other. So this basically adds a bit more evidence to a long-standing suspicion.

  • poor impulse control, disinhibition, lack of concern for others, overly aggressive emphasis on one's own pleasure

    this is the mental condition known as "internet troll"

    familiarize yourself with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders entry for this particular disorder, and show some sensitivity to those affected

    your anger doesn't help in the care and treatment of the mentally altered. more compassion next time please for these poor suffering souls. thank you

  • Re:Clarification (Score:5, Informative)

    by russotto ( 537200 ) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @12:04PM (#28558771) Journal

    That would be CLINICAL depression. As in, the type caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain; as opposed to the type caused by your wife leaving you.

    Despite the drug company propaganda, there's no objective test to distinguish the two. In general the levels of neurotransmitters in a patient's brain aren't measured anyway... and even if they were, there's no available way to tell if the levels were what they were because of some physical issue, or if they're that way because your wife left you.

    However, TFA is talking about bipolar disorder, which is not the same as clinical depression.

  • Re:Clarification (Score:3, Informative)

    by mcgrew ( 92797 ) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @12:12PM (#28558883) Homepage Journal

    The type cause by your wife leaving you is called "adjustment disorder with depressed mood", and they'll prescribe the same drugs as they prescribe for depression (SSRIs like Paxil and Zoloft).

  • Re:Warning (Score:0, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 02, 2009 @12:23PM (#28559073)

    Given that 'Funny' doesn't award karma, it's just to amuse us.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 02, 2009 @12:33PM (#28559225)
    You seem to have the same faulty knowledge of Schizophrenia as most. What you are talking about is something like Dissociative identity disorder. Being Schizophrenic doesn't mean you have multiple personalities. I should know as I'm Schizophrenic myself.
  • by IflyRC ( 956454 ) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @12:34PM (#28559235)
    I just want to be able to marry myself and file myselves as a depedents.
  • Re:Downside (Score:3, Informative)

    by camperdave ( 969942 ) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @12:44PM (#28559411) Journal
    No. It's real tin. They WANT you to put on tinfoil hats. That's because they've got UNDERGROUND SENSORS and the tinfoil hat makes a PERFECT PARABOLIC DISH that focuses on the brain. NEVER step on those grates in the sidewalk.
  • Re:Clarification (Score:4, Informative)

    by Hurricane78 ( 562437 ) <deleted&slashdot,org> on Thursday July 02, 2009 @12:45PM (#28559443)

    Exactly. Especially in times, where people prefer to take meds, instead of healing their problems, it should always be made very clear, that there is a huge difference between genetic disorders, and environment-based disorders. And that there also is a huge difference between intoxication (bad food, toxic waste, polluted nature, etc) and purely psychological influences (evil people, mind-boggling events, wars, extreme mobbing, and especially bad parents).

    Because the last one can't be cured by and medicine at all! At least not in your lifetime.
    It can only be partially overlayed, and numbed down, having more bad than good effects.
    That kind has to be treated with a proper psychotherapy. With the help of someone, who does not fear to take you at the hand and help you go to the deepest and darkest place in your soul, to face it. Luckily this has a very good chance of really healing you.

    But the genetic kind of course can only be treated with meds.

    It is very important to make this distinction, for sure.

  • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @12:50PM (#28559547) Homepage

    Not to be glib, but couldn't it just be part of the disease to feel that the medicated state is unnatural? Whereas you feel muted when on the medicine, it is actually the way most people feel all the time?

    Well, the medicated state is unnatural. And there are certainly people who feel 'muted' much of the time and the tolerance to mood swings is quite varied among folks. Lots of bipolar patients like the "up" when the can handle it. Everybody seems to hate the down part and it can be rough to cycle up and down quite a bit. The differences between monopolar (clincal, classical, typical depression) and bipolar disease aren't all that great and there is no strict line between "normal" and a "disease" state. Sometimes it's really obvious and much of the time it isn't.

    IMHO (and IAAMD) the term "antidepressant" is a big misnomer. They are really mood stabilizers, ala lithium. They do flatten both the ups and downs and they do interfere with creative energy and ability. If you look at the personal lives of many creative people, both in the sciences and arts and in fact in much of the religious sphere, you can discern clear DSM-IV diagnoses. They are 'mentally ill' by our current definitions. And if you look at their often short lived, self destructive lifestyles it's easy to believe that.

    There currently is no such thing as a free lunch when it comes to neuropsychiatric drugs - they're really more like hand grenades then rifle bullets. They hit the target, but often cause collateral damage. Whether and how much and what you should take is often a long term, complicated dance between the patient, the physician and occasionally the courts.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 02, 2009 @01:07PM (#28559929)

    From your link:

    "There is considerable variability among practitioners in the frequency with which ECT is used as first-line/primary treatment or is only considered for secondary use after patients have not responded to other interventions.

    The APA 2001 guidelines give the primary indications for ECT among patients with depression as a lack of a response to, or intolerance of, antidepressant medications; a good response to previous ECT; and the need for a rapid and definitive response (e.g. because of psychosis or a risk of suicide)."


    "The 2001 APA ECT guidelines say that ECT is rarely used as a first-line treatment for schizophrenia but is considered after unsuccessful treatment with antipsychotic medication, and may also be considered in the treatment of patients with schizoaffective or schizophreniform disorder. The 2003 NICE ECT guidelines do not recommend ECT for Schizophrenia."

    So, basically, yes, ECT is a treatment that is used, but generally only for people who really need treatment (mostly because of suicide risk) and don't respond to the first choices, which are usually anti-depressant / anti-psychotic medications. It's not something most practitioners leap to, unless they're extremely behind the times. Anti-psychiatry groups (like the Church of Scientology) like to grab onto ECT as an example of the horrors of treatment, because it does carry some severe drawbacks, and they tend to inflate ideas about how prevalent it is.

    Side note: One of my best friends growing up had a severe case of treatment-resistant bipolar disorder, and his doctors tried all sorts of things, Lithium, other drugs, but never ECT, even though his other treatments were less than helpful.

    Second side note: IANAP (I Am Not A Psychiatrist), but I am a student about to finish a Bachelor's in Clinical Psychology.

  • by bmacs27 ( 1314285 ) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @01:47PM (#28560781)
    To be clear ECT is not the same thing as DBS [wikipedia.org] which is actually a promising therapy for a number of mental disorders. In fact, as a neuroscientist I believe it has a brighter future than much of psychopharmacology as it is more easily localized, and the delivery is more easily controlled. At a meeting this past month I heard some encouraging results from people working with depressed individuals using DBS. They've made great progress in identifying the areas associated with reward processing and motivation. That circuit has been fairly well identified, and seems to be involved with many neurological dysfunctions. It's been used for successful treatment of parkinsons, etc...

    I'm not recommending that you go see the neurologist for your surgery if you feel a little sad. I'm just saying that you should write off the potential for electrical therapy because of the crude understanding we had 50 years ago.
  • Re:So what is it? (Score:2, Informative)

    by arekmenner ( 1590137 ) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @01:55PM (#28560927)
    I'm going to agree here, please change the slashdot headline and summary to reference Bipolar Disorder instead of Manic Depression and Depression. I'm not going to go on a holy war about calling it Manic Depression, that's at least acceptable, but please DO NOT refer to it as it is in the summary, purely as Depression. When people say Depression (without the manic qualifier), they usually mean Major Depressive Disorder or Dysthymia, totally separate illnesses from Bipolar Disorder. It is mainly for this reason that the old Manic Depression term was dropped, because it made people perceive them as two separate parts of the same entity. There has NOT been found in this article a link between Major Depressive Disorder and Schizophrenia, but between Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia. If someone could, please change this to suit. Also, for more proof this is the right way to go, note that the first article linked does not, surveyed via Ctrl+f, reference Depression once.
  • Re:Duh (Score:3, Informative)

    by lwsimon ( 724555 ) <lyndsy@lyndsysimon.com> on Thursday July 02, 2009 @05:03PM (#28564313) Homepage Journal

    I think you're dead on. I had serious issues coping in college, and these days, I believe I am what you call a "socially-functional" case.

    I have bordered on schizophrenia in the past - I have felt my own thoughts race and become uncontrollable, and turn to topics that didn't seem to follow (as if someone else was in control). In my case, I knew that could not be the case, and held tightly the idea that it was a chemical issue. Over time, and with the help of medication (Lexapro and Abilify, for the curious), I learned to stop those lines of thought before they got out of control.

    I hate being wrong - I've learned to deal with it in a professional capacity largely by disconnecting my internal dialogue and my external presence. I may be raging or crawling under the table inside, but as long as I focus on maintaining a professional composure on the outside, I can simply wait it out.

    When I was very young, I remember getting sheets of stickers and not using them, because I couldn't bear the thought of a full sheet with one missing - so I never used the first one. If I was given a half sheet, there would be stickers all over the house ;)

    I'm willing to talk about it if anyone is interested. I can honestly say that managing this has been the greatest challenge in my life so far. I still live with the financial consequences of my actions when I was not yet in control, so it is a bit of an emotional trigger, but I'm happy to do so if it could help someone else live through the same type of thing.

Make it myself? But I'm a physical organic chemist!