NEW YORK, April 1 (UPI) — A U.S. study in mice suggests the biggest known recurrent genetic cause of schizophrenia disrupts linkage between the brain’s decision-making and memory hubs.
Columbia University researchers said that disruption in brain communications results in working-memory deficits.
“Our findings pinpoint a specific circuit and mechanism by which a mutation produces a core feature of the disorder,” said Dr. Joshua Gordon, who led the study that was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and the Simons Foundation.
The researchers said it’s been long suspected a brain connectivity problem was involved in schizophrenia, although the disorder is thought to be 70 percent heritable.
Prior to the new study, neuroimaging of schizophrenia patients had found abnormal connections between the brain’s prefrontal cortex, the executive hub, and the hippocampus, the memory hub. It was also known a mutation in the suspect site on chromosome 22 boosts schizophrenia risk 30-fold and the investigators said that tiny missing section of genetic material, called a microdeletion, has often turned up in genetic studies of schizophrenia. But the mutation’s link to the disturbed connectivity and working-memory deficit was not known, the scientists said.
In the new study, the investigators discovered mice with the chromosome 22 mutation demonstrated inferior synchrony, learning and performance levels as compared to control mice.
The research that included Drs. Joseph Gogos and Maria Karayiorgou is reported in the journal Nature.
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