MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Olav B. Smeland MD PhD
SFF NORMENT, KG Jepsen Centre for Psychosis Research, Division of Mental
Health and Addiction, Oslo University Hospital & Institute of Clinical Medicine
University of Oslo Oslo, Norway
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: Schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder associated with widespread cognitive impairments. The cognitive deficits are associated with disabilities in social, economic and occupational functioning and lower quality of life among individuals with schizophrenia. Despite this, current treatment strategies largely fail to ameliorate these cognitive impairments.
To develop more efficient treatment strategies in schizophrenia, a better understanding of the disease mechanisms underlying cognitive deficits is needed. For a long time we have known that schizophrenia is heritable, and in recent years many schizophrenia risk genes have been identified. Moreover, several studies have indicated that genetic risk of schizophrenia may contribute to cognitive dysfunction.
In this study, we aimed to identify schizophrenia risk genes that also influence cognitive function. In a large international collaboration of researchers, we combined genome-wide association studies on schizophrenia and the cognitive traits of verbal-numerical reasoning, reaction time and general cognitive function. In total, we analyzed genetic data from more than 250.000 participants. We were able to identify 21 genetic variants shared between schizophrenia and cognitive traits. For 18 of these genetic variants, schizophrenia risk was associated with poorer cognitive performance.
MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report
Response: The findings show that genetic risk of schizophrenia may contribute to cognitive dysfunction. We were able to identify 21 genetic variants jointly influencing schizophrenia and cognitive traits. The genetic variants can be used as resources for researchers and guide further efforts to uncover the biological processes underlying cognitive dysfunction in schizophrenia.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Response: There is much work left to do in order to fully understand the genetic architectures underlying schizophrenia and cognitive function, and larger genome-wide association studies are needed. More genetic variants shared between schizophrenia and cognitive traits are expected to be identified when larger genome-wide association studies are available. It will be important to find out how the genetic variants influence brain function and development, and how they interact with the environment.
MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Response: Ultimately, we hope to be able to identify disease mechanisms underlying cognitive deficits in schizophrenia. This knowledge could potentially be used to develop new drugs that enable more efficient treatment for cognitive dysfunction.
MedicalResearch.com: Thank you for your contribution to the MedicalResearch.com community.
Smeland OB, Frei O, Kauppi K, Hill WD, Li W, Wang Y, Krull F, Bettella F, Eriksen JA, Witoelar A, Davies G, Fan CC, Thompson WK, Lam M, Lencz T, Chen C, Ueland T, Jönsson EG, Djurovic S, Deary IJ, Dale AM, Andreassen OA, for the NeuroCHARGE (Cohorts for Heart and Aging Research in Genomic Epidemiology) Cognitive Working Group. Identification of Genetic Loci Jointly Influencing Schizophrenia Risk and the Cognitive Traits of Verbal-Numerical Reasoning, Reaction Time, and General Cognitive Function. JAMA Psychiatry. Published online July 26, 2017. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2017.1986
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