An Incredibly Important Study on Neurology and Psychiatry Published in Science

In previous blogs we have reported on genome wide association studies in psychiatric conditions. For example such studies have played a pivotal role in working out the molecular biology of schizophrenia.[1]

Now, genome wide association studies have been used to see how psychiatric and neurological diseases cluster by genetic polymorphism.[2] An organisation called the BrainSTORM Consortium cross-correlated the genetic variations of 25 psychiatric and neurological diagnoses.

It turns out that genetic correlations between psychiatric disorders are common, but there are no such associations between the major neurological diseases examined, or between neurological and psychiatric conditions. There was considerable overlap between major depression, schizophrenia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Anorexia nervosa clusters with schizophrenia and obsessive compulsive disorder. However post-traumatic stress disorder showed no significant correlation with other psychiatric conditions.

No wonder that it has proven difficult to slot psychiatric illness into neat and discrete clinical entities. On the other hand, this seems little different to autoimmune diseases where there is also a considerable overlap between disease types.

— Richard Lilford, CLAHRC WM Director


  1. Lilford RJ. Psychiatry Comes of Age. NIHR CLAHRC West Midlands News Blog. 11 March 2016.
  2. The Brainstorm Consortium, Anttila V, Bulik-Sullivan B, et al. Analysis of shared heritability in common disorders of the brain. Science. 2018; 360: eaap8757.

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