|The Future of Medicine Through Bioengineering - Ayden Jacob|
When does a psychiatric illness begin? And what is its cause? Theories hypothesize that key demonstrations begin to occur in the teen years, when personality changes begin to become evident. The implicated culprit behind these changes is the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for judgement and higher cognitive functions. Researchers at McGill have isolated a gene, DCC, which is responsible for dopamine connectivity in the medial prefrontal cortex during adolescence. Abnormalities in this gene cause disruption in the concentration of dopamine in this very essential section of the brain, perhaps leading to psychological impairment later on in life. Small changes in the DCC gene in adolescence can produce serious alterations in the prefrontal cortex later on in life. In order to verify if DCC and dopamine are altered in psychiatric patients researchers examined DCC expression in postmortem brains of people who had committed suicide. These brains showed higher levels of DCC expression some 48 per cent higher when compared to control subjects. This research is essential in the battle against mental illness, as it provides a specific target for future pharmacological interventions for mental health patients.