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! ! ! ! ! ! ! Maybe its your mother. Maybe its your uncle or sister.

Watching a family member su"er from depression can be di#cult, leading to feelings of helplessness.! ! In addition to that helplessness, you may also feel concern about genetic links to depression, leading to the all-consuming question, Is depression hereditary?! ! Advertisement! ! The Depression Gene! Last year, a British team isolated a gene that appears to be prevalent in multiple family members su"ering from depression. The chromosome, 3p25-26, was found in more than 800 families with recurrent depression in the study. Scientists have said as many as 40 percent of those su"ering from depression can be traced back to a genetic link, with environmental and other factors comprising the remaining 60 percent.! ! Research has shown that those whose parents or siblings su"ered from depression are up to three times more likely to su"er from depression as those with no close relative su"ering from the disease. While this can certainly be traced to heredity, it can also be argued that environment is to blame.! ! Environmental vs. Heredity! If an individual grows up in a household with someone su"ering from depression, some researchers believe this increases the persons susceptibility to the disease. Through watching a depressed parent or sibling, for instance, a child may learn to mimic that family member when certain situations occur. While having a parent that spends days in bed may seem unusual to someone whose parent never did such a thing, a

child who saw that regularly may assume that as a norm.! ! In this instance, much of what has been learned about heredity and depression has come from studying twins. In studies, a twin was found 76 percent likely to develop depression if his or her twin su"ered from it. When the twins grew up in completely separate environments, that likelihood only decreased to 67 percent. While some instances may be chalked up to family environment, the genetic link is undeniable in studies such as these.! ! The Serotonin Link! Researchers have linked serotonin to depression. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, involved in the transmission of nerve impulses. Serotonin is believed to help maintain a "happy feeling," and help keep our moods under control. Scientists believe an imbalance in serotonin can lead to mood issues like depression and even such issues as obsessivecompulsive disorder and panic attacks.! ! While theories abound as to the reason for the serotonin-depression link, researchers also continue to study serotonin as the key to the genetic link. Problems with the serotonin transporter gene have also been theorized as a cause for depression and researchers have traced prevalence of long and short transporter genes as a possible genetic link.! ! Types of Depression! A clinical depression is one that recurs numerous times over a persons lifetime. This is the most common form of depression and a"ects an estimated three to ve percent of the population, it is also more likely to be shared by siblings and o"spring. In fact, estimates state that a person with a relative su"ering from recurring depression is four or ve times more likely to develop depression than the average person.! ! It is emphasized by many researchers that it is not a singular gene that predisposes someone to develop mental illness as much as a combination of genes that lead to an increased likelihood. Bipolar disorder and anxiety disorders also fall under this predisposition.! ! The question then remains, should someone whose parent or sibling

su"ers from depression be worried? And the answer to that is not necessarily. While someone whose parents or siblings were among the ten percent who su"er from situational depression at one point or another may be more likely to also su"er from it, situational depression is only temporary. It is usually brought on by major life events and treatment is available for it. It is certainly something to watch out for, but not something to worry about.! ! ! ! ! ! It's no secret that families share genes, but are mental illnesses part of the deal?! Owen Franken/CORBIS! For centuries, we've guessed through anecdotal evidence that some mental health disorders grow strong roots within some families. If one of your rst-degree relatives (that's your mom, dad, brother, sister or child) committed suicide, the risk you will (or will attempt to) is four to six times higher than it is for someone in a family without any suicidal behavior in it [source: Landau]. Similarly, if you have a schizophrenic family member, you have an elevated risk for the illness -- in fact, if you have a brother or sister with schizophrenia, your risk of also developing it is 8 times higher than the average Joe, and if you have a schizophrenic parent the risk jumps by 13.8 percent [source: Tsuang].! Is it circumstantial, or are mental illnesses genetic? The quick answer: It's not all a stroke of bad luck. Having just one blood relative with a mental health problem does increase your risk of having one, too. But while mental health professionals consider the genes of your blood relatives to be a factor in whether or not you'll develop mental illness, hereditary factors are just that -- parts of a puzzle. They aren't the only things at play. When you inherit certain genes from your parents, you're predisposed to certain conditions, but your exposure to viruses, alcohol, drugs and other toxins while you were in the womb, as well as your personal biology and brain chemistry, all have a role in your mental health. Experiencing trauma, negative life experiences or living in a high-risk environment are also potential triggers of a psychiatric illness. What we currently know is that while sometimes one, some or all of those factors

may catalyze illness, they don't always -- sometimes they increase your risk but never manifest.! Let's take a look at what we know -- and still don't know -- about the genetic roots of mental illness, beginning with a big breakthrough in the late 1980s.Genetic Roots of Mental Illness! It wasn't until the end of the 1980s that researchers found the genetic roots of a mental illness -- bipolar disorder. After a decade-long study, they found that people a"ected by the illness shared a genetic mutation on chromosome 11 [source: Maugh]. For the rst time, researchers had a way of focusing in on specic, distinctive genetic material that could help diagnose a mental illness rather than relying solely on a patient's symptoms, which may (and often do) overlap among several disorders. Bipolar disorder and schizophrenia both, for instance, share certain psychotic symptoms as well as depressive episodes, which can make diagnoses di#cult in some patients.! Fast-forward across a few more decades of research, and growing evidence suggests that indeed a handful of psychiatric illnesses appear to be hereditary. In 2013, results of the largest genetic study of mental illness to date found that ve common mental health conditions may share among them more than just symptoms; they -- including bipolar disorder and schizophrenia -- may share a variation in their DNA.! Bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, autism, attention decit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and major depression may all seem very di"erent from each other, but researchers studying inheritance patterns of mental illness found that people with these ve disorders all share a common genetic variation. The variation appears to occur in four regions of human DNA. Two of those regions, two calcium channels known as CACNA1C and CACNB2, are involved in how well calcium gets to and from the brain cells, and helps those brain cells communicate. CACNA1C, for example, is known to be associated with emotions, memory, attention and thinking. (And in previous studies, CACNA1C was linked to bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder and schizophrenia.) Genetic variants linked to these ve mental illnesses were also found on chromosomes 3 and 10; continuing research will need to be done to nd out more about the impact of the variation in all four DNA regions, as well as the potential role of calcium channel blockers in treating these mental illnesses [source: Cross-Disorder Group of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium].! Scientists also know that a gene variant may run within a family but may

not be expressed the same way from person to person, which explains why your grandmother, your sister and your mother may share the same abnormal genetic variant as part of their unique genetic makeup but have three di"erent diagnoses. Your grandmother could be a"ected with major depression, your sister with ADHD and your mother with ... nothing. It happens because individual bodies read genetic code in di"erent ways -the abnormal genetic pattern may exist in all three women, but it may not be activated or interpreted in the same way (or at all) each time. Your set of genes is unique and so is the way you express them. ! ! ! ! ! Sky News reports that, "ve of the most common psychiatric disorders are genetically linked." This news is based on a landmark study that examined the genetic sequences of more than 50,000 people. Some of these people had one of ve common long-term conditions the researchers called 'psychiatric disorders.' These were:! autism ! attention decit hyperactivity disorder ! clinical depression ! bipolar disorder ! schizophrenia ! This useful and well-conducted study provides an invaluable insight into the possible genetic factors linked to these common mental health disorders.! Researchers found variations in four genetic regions were associated with these disorders when they looked at the DNA of people who had been diagnosed with one of the mental or behavioural conditions.! Some of these genetic variations a"ect how calcium moves through the brain. These ndings have given rise to speculation about the possibility of new treatments being developed for these conditions.! However, reports that genetic testing could be used to predict or diagnose mental illnesses are probably wide of the mark. The researchers have stated that the e"ects of the genetic variations are small, and that on their own the variations would not be useful for predicting or diagnosing these conditions.! It is also simplistic to regard mental health conditions or behavioural

problems as being purely genetic. There is a wide range of rigorous evidence that shows that environmental factors are also involved.! ! Where did the story come from?! ! The study was carried out by researchers from the Cross-Disorder Group of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium, and was funded by the US National Institutes of Health and a number of grants from other government agencies.! The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal The Lancet. The study was widely covered in the global media, but the story broke slowly in the UK, rst by BBC Radio 4's Today programme, then Sky News. Other UK outlets have since picked up the news. This story was based on a complex piece of research and was covered simply but accurately in the news.! ! What kind of research was this?! ! This was a genome-wide association study of ve conditions: autism spectrum disorders, attention decit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.! These ve conditions are generally classied as either starting in childhood (childhood onset autism, ADHD) or in adulthood (adult onset depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia). There are currently no medical tests for any of these conditions. Instead, they are diagnosed according to the occurrence and impact of distinct sets of symptoms.! It is uncertain what precisely causes any of these conditions. The consensus is that a combination of genetic, biological and environmental factors contributes to their development.! This research examines possible genetic factors and how they may be shared across these ve disorders.! ! What did the research involve?! ! The researchers analysed genetic data from more than 30,000 people with autism, ADHD, depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, and compared it with the genetic sequences of more than 27,000 people who did not have these conditions. All were of European ancestry.!

They carried out several distinct analyses in order to determine whether specic genetic variations were associated with these disorders, and whether any of these variations were linked to multiple disorders.! The human genome is the entire sequence of information contained within our DNA. This sequence is made up of strings of molecules called nucleotides, which are the building blocks of DNA. These nucleotides can develop into distinct variants known as single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). Certain types of SNPs are thought to have a signicant e"ect on human health.! In this study, researchers rst analysed genome-wide SNP data to determine if any were associated with the ve conditions being studied.They then ran several additional analyses to determine whether these variations were associated with multiple disorders (called crossdisorder associations), and whether these genetic risk factors overlapped across the ve conditions.! The researchers also assessed which genes these variations were located near to or in. This is so they could understand which genes may be responsible for the associations seen and which particular biological process (or pathways) they play a role in. This could potentially provide clues as to how SNPs could contribute to these mental health conditions.! The researchers also looked at a number of SNPs that previous studies found were associated with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.! ! What were the basic results?! ! The researchers analysed genetic data from 33,332 individuals with one of the ve conditions, as well as from 27,888 controls. They carried out initial analyses that supported the view that a large number of genetic variants each have a small e"ect on the risk of developing the ve disorders.! In their main analysis, the researchers found that specic variations (SNPs) in four regions of the genetic code were signicantly associated with these conditions. They then looked at whether the variations in these four regions increased the risk of each condition and the size of the e"ect.! They found that three of the variations seemed to have a similar e"ect in all ve conditions. The fourth variation showed signicant variation in e"ect across the disorders, with its e"ects most apparent in bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.!

Some of the variations that were linked to bipolar disorder or schizophrenia in previous analyses also showed evidence of an e"ect across some of the other conditions. However, the evidence for these associations was not as strong as for the other four variants they identied.! The researchers found evidence that some conditions share common genetic risk factors, with the genetic variations associated with schizophrenia overlapping with both depression and bipolar disorder. The results also suggest overlap between autism, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, but this link was not as strong.! They also found that variations in two of the four main regions identied were linked to genes involved in controlling the ow of calcium through cell membranes in response to electrical signals. This process plays an important part in nerve cell signalling and signalling within cells.! Previous studies have found associations between bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and major depressive disorder and the SNPs linked to these genes. SNPs linked to other genes that play a role in calcium ow across membranes were also found to show evidence of association with the ve conditions. Overall, this suggests that this biological process could be important in the development of these mental or behavioural conditions.! ! How did the researchers interpret the results?! ! The researchers concluded that ve common psychiatric conditions traditionally considered to be clinically distinct may in fact share genetic risk factors.! ! Conclusion! ! This study suggests that autism, ADHD, clinical depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia may have common genetic risk factors. The ve conditions examined in this study were selected on the basis of the availability of a large genetic data set.! It is unclear at this stage whether other relatively common mental health conditions (such as anxiety disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder) are also a"ected by these genetic variations, or whether there is overlap with other conditions.!

Perhaps most importantly, these variations cannot on their own predict or explain the development of autism, ADHD, depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. The researchers point out that as with almost all genome-wide association studies of complex conditions the e"ect of the individual variations identied in these four regions was small, and cannot predict or diagnose these mental health conditions.! However, the researchers report that evidence from a variety of research, "including that from clinical, epidemiological and molecular genetic studies, suggests that some genetic risk factors are shared between neuropsychiatric disorders."! They suggest that this study adds to such evidence, and provides "insights into the shared causation of psychiatric disorders". These insights are, specically, that changes in calcium signalling could be a fundamental biological mechanism "contributing to a broad vulnerability to psychopathology".! This research may provide early clues about the role of a shared mechanism in the development of several psychiatric conditions, and may eventually help clinicians understand how and why individual patients develop some mental health conditions. Such an understanding may eventually lead to a new generation of drug treatments for these conditions.! However, in the light of this report it would be simplistic to assume that mental health conditions such as depression or schizophrenia are purely genetic environmental factors are also thought to play a part.! In the same vein, treatment for these conditions does not just involve drugs. Talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) have been proven to be e"ective in many cases.! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! These factors may trigger or not trigger the gene that causes mental illness. It is a very confusing group of illnesses to diagnose.! ! !

Mental disorders are hereditary, but it is not the only factor when it comes to their development. Heredity is a small part of the development of a mental illness, which also includes social and environmental factors. Thusly, it is being researched to try to get a better understanding as to how they come about and their inheritance/risk factor. ! ! Hereditary factors are in fact the smallest part of a mental disorder. Although research is being done to prove that indeed there is hereditary factors. 4 gene variances have been shown that link to mental disorders which cross over to multiple disorders (Trimarchi, 2013). These variances are said to happen due to two calcium channels known as CACNA1C and CACNB2, are a part of how well calcium gets to and from the brain cells, and helps those brain cells communicate. CACNA1C is known to be associated with emotions, memory, attention and thinking (Trimarchi, 2013). 40% of people with depression can link their case to genetics. Oddly enough, a twin was found 76 percent chance to develop depression if his or her twin su"ered from it. When the twins grew up in completely di"erent environments, that chance only dropped to 67 percent. This makes the hereditary factors more apparent since twins are almost identical in terms of genetic make up. People whose parents have depression are three times more likely to develop depression (Krucik, 2012). A part of this is actions they do known as social factors. Social factors are a contributing factors due to the fact many children will mock whatever their parents do and think this is a normal way to live life (Krucik, 2012). The way children are taught how to do things will reect on how they develop as a person this includes mental illness. Say they watch a parent lie in bed all day they will assume this is normal behavior and live the same way (Krucik, 2012).! ! ! Environmental factors are a large part of if a mental illness. The environment may trigger a mental disorder the majority of the time this would usually be a form of depression known as clinical depression. These factors contribute to 60% of the development of a mental disorder Experiencing trauma, negative life experiences or living in a high-risk environment are also possible triggers of a mental illness (Krucik, 2012). It would be easy to assume that heredity is the only factor in mental illness but environmental factors have shown to be a large part and bring around

a form of depression known as clinical depression which will come and go based of what a person is experiencing (Krucik, 2012) ! ! In conclusion mental illnesses are hereditary but this is not the only factor in terms of if someone has a mental illness these are social and environmental factors. Although heredity is a small part of the mental illness picture it is one of the easiest ways to nd out if a person will/has a mental illness. The hardest part to mental illnesses is the large symptom overlap as displayed in the diagram below (Figure 1) and genetics is probably the easiest way to di"erentiate from each other. ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! Figure one. This shows the overlap of symptoms from ADHD to Conduct Disorder, Anxiety disorder and depression and showing the overlap between the four diseases.! ! ! ! Bazian. "Five 'mental Disorders' May Have Genetic Links." - Health News. N.p., 28 Feb. 2013. Web. 18 Mar. 2014.! ! Krucik, George. "Is Depression Genetic?" Healthlines RSS News. N.p., 28 Mar. 2012. Web. 18 Mar. 2014.! ! Trimarchi, Maria. "Are Mental Illnesses Genetic?" HowStu"Works. HowStu"Works.com, 29 May 2013. Web. 18 Mar. 2014.! !