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Discovery of a network of brain areas common to 6 psychiatric diseases

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It is not uncommon to read that serial killers present several psychiatric disorders simultaneously. But even without being a serial killer, people with mild mental disorders may exhibit underlying criteria for various illnesses. That is why American researchers carried out the research and discovered a common network of brain areas that induce various mental illnesses. A significant advance in the understanding of this scourge and for the development of future treatments and therapies.

According to the WHO (World Health Organization), 25% of the world’s population is affected at one time or another in their lives by a mental disorder. Furthermore, mental disorders are the third most common disease after cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

In France, it is estimated that one person in five is affected each year by a mental disorder, that is, 13 million French people. In September 2021, 47% had depressive symptoms and 1 in 4 French people had moderate to severe symptoms.

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You should know that the term mental or psychiatric illness, also called mental health disorder or psychiatric disorder, refers to a wide range of mental health problems. It is a clinically significant alteration, and more or less serious, of cognition -the way of thinking-, of emotional regulation or of the behavior of an individual. These include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders, and addictive behaviors.

However, investigators have noted an overlap in symptoms and criteria among various psychiatric illnesses, suggesting a common etiologic origin. Recently, scientists at Brigham and Women’s Hospital studied four pre-existing, publicly available neurological and psychiatric data sets. They identified a network of brain areas underlying psychiatric illness. Their results are published in the journal Nature Human Behavior.

6 Mental Disorders That Share a Common Brain Origin

The researchers focused on 6 mental disorders in particular: depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, drug addiction, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). To establish common ground, they analyzed a set of structural brain data from more than 15,000 healthy controls, as well as from patients diagnosed with any of the above mentioned mental disorders.

They then found a decrease in gray matter in the anterior cingulate, a region associated with emotions, and in the insula, linked to self-awareness. These two brain regions are commonly associated with psychiatric illness. However, only a third of the studies showed a decrease in gray matter in these regions. Additionally, neurodegenerative diseases have also shown decreases in gray matter in these same regions.

To clarify their observations between psychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases, they compared them to an existing map of human brain connections, the connectome. They then discovered a specific network for decreased gray matter, common to all diagnoses of mental illness. Then they call this network “transdiagnóstico”.

Physical harm and psychiatric disorders

Next, the authors studied the medical records of 194 Vietnam War veterans who suffered a physical brain injury to assess and determine if the mental health problems were related to these specific areas of the brain.

Specifically, the researchers superimposed injuries on the transdiagnostic network they established and found that injury-induced damage to the network was correlated with increased likelihood of multiple psychiatric disorders. Furthermore, from the observed lesions, they built a new network, which surprisingly turned out to be very similar to the first one (based on gray matter atrophy), although it was derived from a completely different data set.

Joseph J. Taylor, MD, PhD, medical director of transcranial magnetic stimulation at the Brigham Brain Circuit Therapeutics Center and an associate psychiatrist in the Brigham Department of Psychiatry, explains in a statement: We found that damage to these regions (the anterior cingulate and insula) was correlated with less psychiatric illness, so atrophy of this cingulate and insula may be a consequence or compensation of psychiatric illness rather than “a cause of she”. “.

Thus, the authors’ analyzes indicate that the posterior parietal cortex is the brain network node most likely to be at the origin of a psychiatric disease. They formally demonstrated this fact using data from neurosurgical ablations for patients with extreme and incurable psychiatric illnesses.

In other words, in people without any mental health problems, the posterior regions of the brain inhibit the anterior regions, whereas in people with damage to the posterior regions, the anterior regions become overactive, which can lead to mental illness. and tissue contraction. the aforementioned atrophy of the gray matter.

By identifying this specific transdiagnostic network for psychiatric diseases, the team offers a new avenue for follow-up studies and analyzes of existing MRI data sets to determine if patterns of neural activation follow the same circuit.

Taylor also plans to use transcranial magnetic stimulation to modulate the network, specifically targeting the posterior parietal region. He concludes: ” Psychiatric disorders are brain disorders, and we are now beginning to have the tools to study and modulate their underlying circuitry. There may be more similarities between these disorders than we initially thought “.

Source: Nature Human behavior


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