Thursday, September 22, 2011

Scientific Research: In the News

By Bob Carolla, NAMI Director of Media Relations

Medical science usually advances slowly and incrementally. What seems logical or reasonable at one point in time may be built upon or overturned by an advance of knowledge in the next decade—or even 20 years later..

Thomas Insel, M.D., director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has noted that “Diagnosis for mental illnesses is totally by observation and the causes are unknown. Treatment is based off trial and error along with the facts that there is no cure.” He pointed to three insights: mental illnesses are brain disorders, they are developmental disorder and they result from complex genetic risks plus environment factors.

In launching the One Mind for Research campaign, former U.S. Representative Patrick Kennedy has called for a broad, aggressive research agenda that would not be “disease specific.” Instead, research should reach across traditional disciplines that involve brain disorders— neurodevelopmental conditions like intellectual disability and autism, neurodegenerative illnesses like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease and neuropsychiatric illnesses like schizophrenia.

Both Insel’s and Kennedy’s views are covered in the current issue of NAMI’s print magazine, theAdvocate. Two news stories broke this week that reflect their approach.

Science Daily reported that scientists from more than 20 countries conducted collaborative studies involving more than 50,000 people to identify genetic variants that put people at risk of developing mental illness.

They discovered that common genetic variants exist for both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, involving 11 regions of the genome, including six that were not previously known. The results represent a significant advance in understanding the causes of both illnesses. NIMH funded international coordination of the study.

Meanwhile,Health Daily News reported on a Taiwanese study that found that people living with epilepsy are nearly eight times more likely than those without it to develop schizophrenia. In turn, people living with schizophrenia are also six times more likely to have epilepsy.

The “two-way relationship” between the two conditions may be the result of genetic, neurobiological or environmental causes. While the cause is still uncertain, the study provides new perspective for research.

Every study is a building block of knowledge. Unfortunately, for anyone who lives with mental illness, breakthroughs in scientific research can’t come fast enough.

1 comment:

CalgarySandy said...

I am bi-polar and wish that my family and various bosses would believe the science instead of telling me I have a bad attitude or that I do this to get attention. It is my experience, as an advocate in the work place, that people will never get passed the stigma to understanding and compassion. Though I have spent 30 years looking for help and taking the meds I am very little better off. How can you get better when the people at work are allowed to be bullying and my family flatly refuses to consider me ill? If I did not have a child I would have killed myself long ago because there is no help if magical words from arrogant pshrinks don't work. I have been diagnosed with everything from being just too sensitive to borderline personality disorder and everything in between including bipolar 2. I have taken most of the meds and none work for more than a couple of weeks. I have had workers (DBT) promise on all that is holy they will stay for a year and then leave in 3 months and a psychiatrist move away without finding new doctor's for her patients. I have given up looking for help. If new meds come out I will work with my Family Doctor. Otherwise I am done. I cannot take any more snobby psychiatrists who drag me through my horrible life over and over even though they know this is counter productive they still do it.