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Gene linked to mental Illness, So I don’t have to just “Snap out of it?”

Posted by Pat Kershaw on November 10, 2006

I remember when I was growing up in a rural community and on a farm, that my father and most of his associates believed people with mentaGenesl illness where weak, or lazy. It is still quite common for people to believe, especially with anxiety and depressive disorders, that the person has some choice as to how they respond to “whatever”

Research has constantly shown this to be partly true, but the whole “Nature-Nurture” debate focuses on predispositions to conditions according to birth. I.E. some conditions are passed on by genes, from parents to siblings. The degree to which each condition is naturally caused and which are environmentally triggered will continue to rage, but this is another piece of the puzzle.

PsycPORT Reports:

U.S. scientists have found a gene variant linked with mental illness is also linked with enlargement of a brain region that handles negative emotions.

The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Central Texas Veterans Health Care System researchers focused on a gene related to the neurotransmitter serotonin. They found the region of the brain called the pulvinar is larger and contains more nerve cells in those carrying the gene.

Once specific nerve cells release serotonin, a molecule called the serotonin transporter, or SERT, brings it back into the cell.

Drugs that prevent this re-uptake, such as Prozac, are frequently used to treat patients with depression.

The serotonin transporter gene has two forms, or variants: short, or SERT-s, and long, SERT-l. People carrying two SERT-s genes are more likely to experience depression than people with one or no SERT-s genes.

The researchers studied brains from 49 deceased people, with and without psychiatric illnesses. They found subjects carrying two SERT-s genes had pulvinar areas 20 percent larger and contained 20 percent more nerve cells.

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2 Responses to “Gene linked to mental Illness, So I don’t have to just “Snap out of it?””

  1. Deborah said

    You are right Pat, you do not just have to “snap out of it” I once had a person tell me to just pull myself up by my bootstraps. That was before I was given the right diagnoses and the right psychotropic medications.

    Please be careful when you say things like, “Research has constantly shown this to be partly true.” That is not the case and it makes it sound like you agree with your father and most of his associates.

    There are many people who due to there mental illness DO NOT have a choice in how they function. I am sure you didn’t mean to sound that way and you did share some very good research.

    We need to be careful how we portray people who have serious nuerbiological disorders (mental illnesses).

    You do not have to apologize or hold back because you have more incite than your father. Keep up the good work.

    Thank you for the psycPort.
    Best, Deborah

  2. Deborah,
    When I said ‘research has …. to be partly true”, I should have finished off the explanation, but the pain meds I am on are not helping me follow through trains of thought. What I was alluding to was the fact that people are an amalgamation of

    – genetic predispositions toward behaviors or traits,
    – learned behaviors and traits,
    – experience and situational factors…

    In other words, Partly nature and Partly nurture. The real difficulty is defining the amount of each in individual situations and individuals.
    There is absolutely NO doubt that the right treatment must be tailored to suit the individual. Some need drugs, some just counseling to “clarify thinking”, some need cognitive re-training, skills development,.. The list goes on and on
    But MOST need a mixture of what works for them.
    Thanks for pointing out my generalization. I know this is not much more precise, but hopefully somewhat more explicit.

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