Newborn Brain Changes Warning Sign of Alzheimer’s?
(Ivanhoe Newswire) – Certain illnesses can strike a perfectly healthy person when they least expect it. Common examples of this include schizophrenia appearing in young adults and older individuals being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, despite no previous problems. Now a new study finds that the brain changes linked to these diseases could be seen long before symptoms appear; in fact, the risks may be visible in newborns’ brains.
The recent study led by Rebecca C. Knickmeyer, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, discovered that newborns can have the same brain changes as adults with certain genetic variations associated with issues like autism and Alzheimer’s.
The discovery was made by researchers after testing the DNA of 272 infants for 10 variations of 7 different genes which have previously thought to be related with a range of disorders from depression to schizophrenia.
Although all of the gene variations did not show brain changes in infants similar to those in adults, others were remarkably alike such as variations of a gene linked to Alzheimer’s.
"These results suggest that prenatal brain development may be a very important influence on psychiatric risk later in life," Dr. Knickmeyer was quoted as saying.
Gene variations in the study which did not cause changes in infant brains like those found in adults with the variation could point to a timeline of when these changes are likely to occur. Where some changes happen soon after birth, others could come later on during adolescence or even early adulthood.
Greater understanding of how and when our brains change in relation to these disorders may lead to innovative techniques in the future.
"This could stimulate an exciting new line of research focused on preventing onset of illness through very early intervention in at-risk individuals,” Dr. Knickmeyer was quoted as saying.
Stopping disease in its tracks before it has time manifest could offer relief to millions of individuals across the world.
Source: Cerebral Cortex, January 2013