New thoughts on brain disorder

I have a powerful fascination with all things brain and intellect.  When I was younger, I had a hang-up with the flawed concept of IQ.  Later, when I hoped to become a psychiatrist, I did dvolunteer work in an out-patient mental-health facility.   More recently, I’ve been reading a lot on autism, schizophrenia, and other brain development challenges.  Basically – I like learning more about what goes on within the brain.  Of course, given how limited my access to research is, and how little I’ve read on the subject, my knowledge is pretty damned limited.  Still, when I find an article like this NY Times story on new thinking about mental disorders, I have to check it out.

The theory emerged in part from thinking about events other than mutations that can change gene behavior. And it suggests entirely new avenues of research, which, even if they prove the theory to be flawed, are likely to provide new insights into the biology of mental disease.

. . .

Their idea is, in broad outline, straightforward. Dr. Crespi and Dr. Badcock propose that an evolutionary tug of war between genes from the father’s sperm and the mother’s egg can, in effect, tip brain development in one of two ways.

In short, it sounds like when one parent’s genes overpower the other sufficiently, it can affect brain development.  Which parent’s genes exert a greater influence will change how the brain develops.

A strong bias toward the father pushes a developing brain along the autistic spectrum, toward a fascination with objects, patterns, mechanical systems, at the expense of social development. A bias toward the mother moves the growing brain along what the researchers call the psychotic spectrum, toward hypersensitivity to mood, their own and others’.

Ah Ha!!!  Psychotic!  And that’s their word, not mine.  I’m sure many men, at this point, would be nodding their head and saying “Of course that pushes the brain towards psychotic.”  Except, of course, most of us man can’t really focus long enough to get this far in the story.  🙂

Better said by NY Times:

In short: autism and schizophrenia represent opposite ends of a spectrum that includes most, if not all, psychiatric and developmental brain disorders. The theory has no use for psychiatry’s many separate categories for disorders, and it would give genetic findings an entirely new dimension.

But before putting too much stock in this theory, realize it has early critics.  And it has early problems worth working through before giving too much confidence in the end concept.

“The reality, and I think both of the authors would agree, is that many of the details of their theory are going to be wrong; and it is, at this point, just a theory,” said Dr. Matthew Belmonte, a neuroscientist at Cornell University. “But the idea is plausible. And it gives researchers a great opportunity for hypothesis generation, which I think can shake up the field in good ways.”

The full story at the NY Times delves deeper in to the thinking behind the theory, how the authors game up with the idea, and why it might or might not develop into something useful.  I just wish I knew enough to make better sense of it and have more of value in commenting on it.

[tags]Brain development, Brian disorder, Psychotic, Autism, Schizophrenia[/tags]