The two-day biennial symposium hosted by the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute began on September 25 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. As in previous years, the Stanley Center invited a range of pioneering researchers from the border zones of mental illness, genetics, and neuroscience, and there were many presentations of direct or indirect relevance to psychotic disorders.
In his welcoming remarks, Stanley Center Director Steve Hyman, who organized the meeting with Stanley Center researchers Guoping Feng of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Ben Neale of Harvard University, said, "This field is very old—it probably started with Hippocrates—but very young, rejuvenated by genomic technologies.” To kick things off the morning genetics session, Neale reviewed some data from recent genetic studies of early childhood mental illnesses. He said that the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (PGC) has been able to increase its sample sizes for sequencing of common variants contributing to autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) thanks to contributions from the iPSYCH program in Denmark. Surprisingly, the genetic material extracted from bloodspots collected from newborns, and maintained in freezers for many decades, can be used to sequence exomes. These new samples should allow for the identification of many more variants contributing to these disorders.
Neale also discussed recent data on the contribution of de novo mutations to ASD. He said that some 20 to 30 genes can clearly be termed major causal factors in ASD. It has also been found that some genes are less tolerant to disruption than others, suggesting that a high level of the risk is driven by a small number of genes. Preliminary results suggest that the genes that predispose to ASD overlap substantially with ADHD risk genes.
Read the full report on the symposium here: