June 30, 2005

Actor, Genetics, Environment, & Schizophrenia

Experts, actor clash on cause of mental ills

Recently, we discussed some of the comments the actor Tom Cruise made about brain disorders (our past story). Initially, members of Congress took issue with Cruise's commentary. Now, experts are commenting on Cruise's comments as well as discussing what changes lead to brain disorders:

Cruise's religious beliefs -- the actor is a Scientologist -- clash with the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence on the matter of mental illness, neuroscientists say."It's safe to say that we know that metabolic changes in the brain are present for all major mental illnesses," Conway said (Dr. Charles Conway, medical director of inpatient psychiatry at St. Louis University.)The case for brain changes accompanying mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder and autism is closed, experts say. Now the debate is over which changes lead to mental illness and which are the result of having the disease, said Dr. Kelly Botteron, an associate professor in the departments of psychiatry and radiology at Washington University.

Though scientists have identified genes which they believe "play a role in causing (brain disorders)," they still say that people don't just suffer from brain disorders because of the way their brains are wired. Further, experts describe the brain as being an organ which "rewires itself with new experiences." Thus, it seems that the key to understanding brain disorders may lie somewhere in the realms of life experiences and genetics.

Because of identical twin studies, scientists know that "the sole cause" of brain disorders isn't genetics. Though, "...identical twins come from the same fertilized egg and are alike in 100 percent of their genes...," the identical twin of a person with schizophrenia has only a 50 percent chance of developing the disorder. It seems that life experiences are responsible for determining the rest.

Interestingly enough, your environment may have the ability to protect you, even if you have a susceptibility to a brain disorder. One expert claims, "If you have the form (of the gene) that confers vulnerability to depression, but your life is like 'Leave it to Beaver,' you'll probably come out all right..." Though there are still many things left to discover in science regarding brain disorders. Thus far, "science has clearly shown that leaving (brain disorders) untreated is bad for the brain..."

Full Story:

More on Causes of Schizophrenia:


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